Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#198 In which our hero witnesses a rather foul-mouthed filmmaker speak, and enjoys nearly every minute of it; save the self-fellatio.

The Scientist and I went to see Kevin Smith speak last night. He was appearing at the University of Akron, which happens to be a five minute walk from where I work. Tickets were only $8, so it was hard to pass by.

The plan was that I would leave work early, go get us a decent place in line (it was general seating) and The Scientist would pick up a couple of friends and meet me in Akron.

I expected the worst. Kevin Smith’s engagements are always sold out (as was this one) and it was on a college campus in Akron (not to bash Akron, but really, is there a ton of other stuff to do on a Friday night in the winter?). I strolled over there around 4pm (show started at 6pm) and expected to find a mob already queued up.

Instead, what I found was 12 people.

I had to ask if these people were indeed there to see Kevin Smith and if so, where the hell was everyone else? Other people seemed as surprised as I was. I called The Scientist and she was thrilled at the notion that we’d have great seats.

A few more people started to arrive, but nowhere near as many as I expected. With a bunch of free time on my hands, I listened to my iPod (which I always screw up and call my “Walkman” because, why yes, I can 50 years old) and took out a tablet and worked on this co-promotion that’s been vexing me at work. I also took the time to people-watch the few brave souls who arrived before me.

All college kids, far as I could tell. When I look at college kids I’m always filled with a bittersweet nostalgia. I looked at the cute couple sitting on the steps playing Uno and Mad Libs, him with ripped Chucks and her with magenta hair, sharing a pack of Camels, and envied them a bit. The biggest worry they had was passing a class and making sure they had enough condoms on hand. They were a decade away from a mortgage and fretting about how they could pay to get their kids into a good private school and speculating how if the company lost this big account their jobs would be on the chopping block… now that I think about it, I don’t think I miss the things I did (or didn’t do) in college, but rather I miss the freedom of not having to give a shit. Of just coasting, knowing that I would make enough in tips from bussing on Friday to pay for cover and drinks on Saturday.

I suppose I should feel old in situations like this, but I don’t. Sure, I have a wife and two kids and a mortgage and a real job and all that crap… but I still enjoy fart jokes and SpongeBob and read comic books and do other things that don’t exactly scream “grown up!” I guess when I was 20 I thought 38-year-old-Craig would be a hell of a lot more grown up than I am.

At one point while I was sitting there, tablet it hand, sketching out promotional concepts, I overheard one of these college kids say “Look, that guy’s doing his homework.” And I thought “Homework? Kid, I’m working on ideas for a joint promotion between one of the nation’s largest home DIY centers and one of the world’s largest fast food chains and if they like our pitch they’re each going to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into media and my idea will be plastered all over their stores and it will generate some serious money for the agency so it’s not exactly ‘home work,’ it’s a little, ahem, bigger than that and Jesus Christ do you even hear yourself talking you old, old man.” But, I redeemed myself a little bit later when this same kid bumped into me as he bounced around like a spaz and he said, “Sorry, I’m just really excited to be here!” and I replied, “Well, it hardly shows” which made all his buddies laugh. So maybe I’m not so old.

Anyway, it started to get a little more crowded, and at 5:30 The Scientist called me to say that there were stopping to pick up fast food and what did I want? Want I wanted, frankly, was for them to get there already because I was starting to worry that they wouldn’t get there before the doors opened and then I’d have to fight off a bunch of punks as I saved three extra seats in the front row. Of course, when they did get there my wife prompted informed me that the show started at 7:30, not 6, so what exactly was my problem? I guess that explained why there weren’t more people lined up at 4.

Finally they open the doors and I’m ready to sprint to the front row if need be. However, turns out the University screwed us… it was general seating, but the first 20 rows were reserved for season ticket holders. We did manage to get in the 21st row, dead center and I was pretty damn happy with our seats.

Then the University tried to screw us again.

An usher came over and told us that we were actually in a reserved row, and that the general seating started in the row behind us. Of course, by the time she informed us of this, the rest of the place was packed. The venue had two balconies, and there were already people in both of them. If we had to move now, we weren’t going to be able to see shit.

I started formulating my plan of attack as soon as I saw what was going on… see, it’s not like we tried to jump into the forbidden zone, we just went where the ushers told us we could. And if their dumbass 80-year-old volunteer couldn’t get her rows right, well, that wasn’t our fault, now was it?

But we weren’t the old ones in this row, and this one guy was also formulating a plan, but his plan, as articulated to the usher, was “Fuck that! I’m not moving!” and he was clearly ready to come to blows over the issue if need be. So I figured I’d like him take the brunt of any fallout, then try to plead my case like a, well, like a grown up.

As it turned out, it didn’t matter. Only a fraction of the season ticket holders showed up, and 15 minutes before the curtain they opened up all the rows. We managed to climb down another eight rows or so, leaving us about 10 rows from the stage. Really, really good seats.

A word about the season ticket holders.

Kevin Smith was appearing at the E.J. Thomas Hall on the University of Akron campus. This is a multi-function venue. The Akron Symphony Orchestra plays there. It features Broadway shows. You can see world-renown jazz performers. It hosts a variety of lectures from famous authors and playwrights. They put on ballets.

In other words, these people had no idea what they were getting in to.

The Scientist and I exchanged glances as we saw the gray-haired women in neat pantsuits arrive with their gray-haired husbands in sport coats. Unless I was really, really off the mark, these nice folks had never seen a Kevin Smith movie, and they certainly had never heard him speak before.

Because here’s the thing: I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith. I enjoy his movies a lot; I think Chasing Amy if one of the sweetest, most heart-breaking movies I’ve ever seen. I just think he’s a really talented screenwriter and filmmaker. However, there’s no way in hell I’d EVER take my mother to see him speak.

Kevin Smith has been doing these lecture things for a while now. Matter of fact, he has two DVDs out, An Evening with Kevin Smith (which I’ve seen) and the sequel, “An Evening with Kevin Smith -- Evening Harder” (which I haven’t seen).

The deal is that he just takes questions from the audience. That’s it. But the guy can tell a good story. And even though the guy has only been in the business for about 15 years, he has a lot to say. And a lot of what he has to say is surrounded by the words “fuck” and “pussy.” He’s a crude guy and certainly not for everyone, but The Scientist and I think he’s hilarious.

(One story from the first DVD about when he was commissioned by Warner Bros. to write a script for a new Superman movie is especially funny--and insightful about how things really get done in Hollywood. That link goes to a YouTube video that’s almost 20 minutes long, but it’s totally worth it if you haven’t already seen it.)

Kevin Smith finally takes the stage. I’ve read that at previous shows the guy stays up on stage until people run out of questions… sometimes stretching out a two hour show to five or six hours. Which is fine by me. But, one of the first things he tells us is that the people in charge have made it clear that everyone has to be out by 10:30. So that sucks.

He warms up the audience by hacking on Akron for 10 minutes… which is fine (I don’t live in Akron, I could care less) but not what I came to see. He’s not a comedian (a fact he makes clear when someone asks him if he’s ever considered getting into stand-up) and I just want to get to the Q&A. Which, thankfully, starts shortly thereafter.

So the questions start coming. One of his rules is that he doesn’t talk about anything that’s already been covered in Evening With or Evening Harder… so no “tell us the Superman giant spider story again!” All new content. Dig it.

One thing I realize immediately: editing is your friend. His DVDs cut between venues and obviously cherry-pick the best questions. But when you see him live? People ask stupid questions. I mean, really, really stupid questions.

The second question of the night goes something like this: “Hi Kevin! My friends and I have been having a heated debate, and we want your opinion. Say a necrophiliac is fucking a corpse, but then she suddenly is reanimated in the middle of the act. Does he finish, and if so, does he take her out for dinner afterwards?”

I give Smith credit for being game for any question--because this won’t be the most stupid of the evening. He answers this idiot, saying, “Does he finish? Sure, he’s a guy, of course he finishes.” But the questioner isn’t happy with that, she keeps asking, “Yeah, okay, but does he take her out of dinner after? Huh?” He keeps at it long after I would have said “Look asshole, I didn’t fly in to freakin’ Akron to answer dumb shit like this.”

But, y’know what? He has. Clearly Kevin Smith is enjoying himself, and why not? He is getting paid to stand up and tell funny stories for a couple hours. Not a bad gig.

While this is going on, I’m looking at the gray-hairs around me. There’s a nice old lady directly next to me, and I keep sneaking glances at her. She has a slight smile plastered to her face throughout, and I’m not sure if maybe she’s actually enjoying the show, or if she’s just keeping a stiff upper lip.

It’s not more than 20 minutes before some of the gray-hairs start filing out. To her credit, the lady next to me lasted an entire hour and a half before bailing.

It’s a thoroughly enjoyable time. Not a lot of the stories stick with me, but I know I enjoyed them at the time. That is, except one.

Kinda out of the blue, Smith tells us that as a younger man he was able to suck his own dick. Which is disturbing in and of itself, but the story seemed much more prepared than Smith’s other stories. At first I think he’s just kidding, but he’s adamant about it. And detailed. “It was after I blew a load in my own mouth that I knew I could never be gay,” he says. I’m thinking, “Dude, no-one was even asking about your dick.”

I don’t know, maybe if you come to the realization that you’re going to tell a room full of hundreds of strangers that you’re tasted your own dick before (“right to the balls”) you need to get the details straight in your head. You practice what you’re going to say in front of the mirror. Or maybe he tells this story every single show, and the editors of the DVDs wisely cut out that part.

Things I learned from Kevin Smith:
  • Vin Diesel may or may not be gay and enjoy sitting under a glass table watching people shit on him
  • Smith is currently writing a horror movie
  • Jennifer Garner is a bit of a cold fish
  • Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have nothing better to do than surf fan-sites of their own movies
  • It was Smith’s wife, not him, who wanted to name their daughter “Harley Quinn”
  • George Clooney “loves pussy”
  • For Clerks II, Harvey Weinstein had to be talked out of actually showing "Pillow Pants”
  • David Duchovny begged to be in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. As Cock-Knocker. It was only a scheduling conflict that kept him out of the flick
…and many other things. Some involving his wife’s ass. Which isn’t nearly as sexy as it might sound.

All in all, a great time. Head over to YouTube to see some footage from the show. Last night a search for “Kevin Smith Akron” gave me seven videos. There’s probably more now.

Just steer clear of any tagged with “suck” “own” and “dick.”




Blogger Amy said...

I was at the Akron show, too -- up in the third balcony with a great view of his bald spot because I was still at work at 4, driving down from Cleveland at 5, and having dinner with my parents at 6 and thus unable to show up early and stand in line.

I've seen both of the Evening with . . . DVDs, so I knew what to expect, but my friend Mary Lu was, uhm, a little taken aback, I think, by the bulk of the subject matter. And I don't care how funny my mom thinks he is, I would never have brought her with me — unlike the person Kevin singled out by asking if it had been a "tough sit" that evening. Oy.

Anyhow, I just stumbled across your post as part of a general Google search I did after a friend sent me a link to one of Kevin's Akron segments on YouTube. I guess my friend's wife was the one who answered the question (she was the pregnant woman they pushed to the front of the line at the very end), and he's can't believe that the video only shows Kevin answering the question and not her asking it. (Whatever!) I enjoyed your write-up and thought I'd share.

11:04 PM

Blogger craig said...

You couldn't see her from the balcony, but that "tough sit" lady was probably in her 60s at least, with totally white hair. But, if you remember, she said she was "also a film maker," and when Kevin asked her what kind of films she made, she said "films under glass tables." Which is pretty damn funny. So maybe she was a little more hip then I'd expect.

And, unlike the grey-hairs around me, she stayed for the entire show.

8:45 AM


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