Funny, intelligent, inspiring and stoned… if I had to choose four words to describe Kevin Smith last night at the Chicago Theater, those are the words. And if you haven’t taken the time to experience a Kevin Smith live show, preferably “An Evening With…” then I highly recommend you do so.
Kevin Smith is a breath of fresh air in the Hollywood smog. His movies might not be oscar worthy, or even good in some cases, but the man is intelligent and has his fingers on the pulse of the people. He knows that the Hollywood model that has worked for so long can’t sustain itself in a world where people expect everything to be at their fingertips instantly… and free. His SModco company has began to break down the walls between the people and Hollywood. Nowhere else will you find a director/writer touring with his movie and then sticking around for hours afterwards to answer any questions the audience may have. Nowhere else will you find a director/writer taking hours of his day to sit at his computer and interact with his fans via Twitter. And nowhere else will you find a director/writer giving away 90% of the art he creates for free, online, on purpose. But Kevin Smith is doing all of these things and he’s making a living for himself, as well as his friends and family, and he loves doing it. He’s got it figured out, and if you have a few bucks and the opportunity to go hear him speak in person about these things, you’ll see for yourself.
That being said, let’s talk specifically about the show at The Chicago Theater last night, which was part of TBS’ Just For Laughs comedy event. Tons of comedians made their way to Chicago this week to take part in the event which blanketed Chicago in a dense cloud of weed and laughter, yet we chose to go see Kevin Smith of all people. With acts like Patton Oswald and Aziz Ansari in town, why on earth would you want to go see the fat guy who made Jersey Girl and Cop Out answer questions for 2 hours… well, the answer is pretty simple, the man can tell a story. And honestly, when you think about it, comedians are just funny storytellers. Sure, the popular standup acts whittle their stories down into shorter tales as to get to a punch line and a laugh faster, but Smith has a way of turning simple questions into ridiculously long and drawn out stories that are both interesting and funny as hell. A question about marriage advice turned into a 20 minute story about how Smith’s wife Jen took two hits from a joint to help her sleep, ended up freaking out and next thing you knew the ambulance and the LAPD were at the house. It’s stories like that, stories that are both interesting and funny, but at the same time personal, that are the reason I wanted to see Kevin Smith as opposed to just a comedian. Standup comics usually have a set list of jokes that they run through for an entire year while out on the road so if you catch them more than once, there’s a good chance you’re going to hear the same material. Hell, with YouTube these days, you’ve probably seen/heard all the jokes anyways, but since Smith is answer questions from the audience, you get fresh material all the time. Sure, there were a couple stories that he told last night that I had heard him tell on his podcasts or on one of his other DVD specials, but 90% of the things he talked about I hadn’t heard before… and I listen to his stuff every day.
And aside from his storytelling ability, the man is a story himself. His story is another reason why I wanted to see him. He had no connections what so ever to Hollywood yet still managed to break himself into the business, have a successful career and most importantly, do what he loves. When the film industry started taking his toll on him he switched to the internet. He keeps going after the things he loves in life no matter what other people say. I’m sure there were a lot of people out there that told him he was crazy for taking “Red State” out on the road himself, but there were also a lot of people that encouraged him and told him “why not” and it’s the inspiration in those stories that makes me a fan of his. Sure I like his movies just like all of his fans, but while the movies are still enjoyable to go back and watch, that’s not what keeps me a fan. What keeps me a fan is his dedication to his art and his ability to adapt to the world around him. He knows that things can’t stay the same so instead of sitting around and waiting for change to come, he dives right in and changes them himself.
So that’s why I, personally, wanted to see Kevin Smith instead of a typical stand up comedian, and I’m glad I did. Aside from a few fans who couldn’t wrap up their questions and get to the point, the show was awesome. I could have listened to Kevin tell stories for another 2 hours, and I will, the next time he comes to town. He was even nice enough to make sure anyone that bought his book and didn’t get a chance to get it signed at his bookstore appearance earlier in the week, got their books signed. It’s his passion and respect for his fans that makes him a stand out in Hollywood. He knows that he wouldn’t be where he is right now if it weren’t for the people that believed in him and paid money to see his flicks, even the shitty ones, so he doesn’t seem to take that for granted. No other movie star, director, writer, producer, whatever, would travel the country (and the world) on a regular basis just to talk to their fans and answer their questions. Even if you’re not a fan of his movies or any of the work he’s done, you can’t deny the fact that the man can turn the most uninteresting story into an epic 30 minute tale that is both intelligent and entertaining. He’s got a way with words and I’m just glad that I finally got to see it in person as opposed to just listening to him every day through my headphones.