Shootin’ the Sh*t with Kevin Smith
The Best of Smodcast
By Kevin Smith
US $14.95/CAN $18.95
“I’m telling you man, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- I am really am one cock shy in the mouth of being gay.”
I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith and his films. I was first introduced to the man’s work back in early 1995 when, after hearing nothing but raves about how it was the funniest film of the previous year, I took a chance on renting his directorial debut Clerks from the video store down the street from my house. Raw, naturalistic, shot in grainy black-and-white like it was recorded straight off a convenience store’s security camera, and joyfully vulgar and funny as a motherfucker, Clerks was my first official introduction to the world of independent film and a brilliant new voice of cinematic comedy. I’ve been hooked on Smith’s films ever since, and yes even Jersey Girl had its share of memorable moments. What attracted me to the cinema of Kevin Smith was his gift for crafting bold and colorful characters through profane but hilarious dialogue that revealed their innate intelligence and vulnerability. Next to Quentin Tarantino and the writing staff of Seinfeld Kevin Smith was the best at turning convoluted conversations about pop culture and sexuality into windows into the souls of unconventional characters who would typically be sidelined in a conventional Hollywood feature.
“I’m more inspired by Wayne Gretsky than Jesus, ’cause I got more video on Wayne Gretsky.”
Another characteristic Smith shares with his fellow indie movie icon Tarantino is that he’s also a joy to talk with and listen to in person. His DVD audio commentaries never fail to entertain, his interviews are as frank and funny as his movies, and his college appearances (documented in the ongoing An Evening with Kevin Smith DVD series) prove he doesn’t need a movie camera to weave captivating tales about anal fissures and feuding with Tim Burton over a joke. The man can conduct conversations for hours on end on a variety of topics without ever having a dull moment and his intelligence, down-to-earth honesty and self-deprecating wit combine to create a unique and loyable persona that you always enjoy watching and listening to. He’s also written a lot of great essays and articles that have been collected into book form in the past. The latest Kevin Smith book Shootin’ the Sh*t: The Best of SModcast is not written by the director himself but is rather a collection of transcripts from an (almost, according to Smith’s introduction) weekly podcast he hosts called SModcast. Joining Smith most of the time on SModcast is his long-time friend and producer Scott Mosier, but when Mosier isn’t available Smith brings on other friends and collaborators to fill his spot, including Malcolm Ingram, Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, and even his wife Jennifer Schwalbach and daughter Harley.
“When it’s soft it won’t reach, and when it’s hard it won’t bend.”
The subject of each show varies in topicality and the conversations have a warm and friendly tone particularly when Smith and his guests tend to go way off topic. I’ve never listened to SModcast before but judging from the transcripts I would think the show to be as entertaining as anything else Smith has been involved with, but in transcript form the SModcast episodes aren’t nearly as enjoyable as listening to the show for yourself. It’s like watching a DVD commentary in subtitle form, or reading a court reporter’s transcription of the coolest party you didn’t get to attend. There’s a moderate amount of enjoyment to be had reading this book if you try playing the conversations in your head and in Smith’s voice, but that’s about all the fun you could possibly have. Smith’s sole written contribution to Shootin’ the Sh*t is an introduction where he writes about how he met Scott Mosier and how their friendship has developed over the years and the comraderie between the two is strongly evident in the SModcast transcripts. They share an easy-going rapport in their rapid fire discussions, often stepping on and even finishing each other’s sentences.
“A weird guy in a big chef hat and a mustache came up to me and said he was gonna fuck my wife in the ass, but he gave me some great canned food.”
Something is certainly lost in the translation from podcast to page. Sitting in on a sprawling conversation between Smith and several of his friends may seem like fun but with the exception of several scattered moments of genuine wit the book fails to accurately capture that feeling. The conversations aren’t exactly worthy of the Algonquin Round Table but even the best scripts, whether it be a teleplay or radio drama or feature screenplay, only really come to life when they’re being performed. But some of the stories contained within the episodic ramblings of Smith, Mosier, and company do pack in more than a few laughs, as do their random musings on whatever enters their minds. You can hear the thoughts of Kevin Smith and his View Askew crew on topics such as: whether or not Helen Keller was faking her disability (one of the longer of the SModcasts, the transcript runs almost 24 pages); eating raw meat; Mosier’s harrowing experience in a fender-bender; the issue of cloning (another long one-runs close to 30 pages); further discussion on the “pickle initiation” ritual that was first mentioned in Clerks II; trying to figure out what the fuck the late-80’s Judd Nelson/Ally Sheedy flick Blue City was about; and a detailed fantasy scenario about confronting the lead singer of Foreigner in a grocery store, to name but a few.
“Better a gay Batman than no Batman at all.”
There are also a small selection of illustrations scattered throughout the book. They’re not bad but they’re definitely crude and look like they were whipped in just a few days on someone’s home computer. They add immeasurably to the cynical slapdash nature of the book. As much as I love Kevin Smith and his movies I can’t in good conscience recommend Shootin’ the Sh*t. It’s just too tedious to be considered a decent read. One good thing I can say about it though: at least this book makes me want to have interesting conversations with my own friends.
There’s still time to enter to win a copy of the book in Geeks of Doom’s Shootin’ the Sh*t contest.