The home headquarters of Kevin Smith's fanboy empire of movies, comic book men and Smodcasts resides in a Hollywood hillside house once owned by pal Ben Affleck. It was more of a fraternity clubhouse in those days, with arcade video games and a dude crashed in every room, until Smith and the wife took over 11 years ago and "family'd it out."
"He came back one night," Smith says of Affleck, a sometime collaborator and newly-minted Oscar winner as a producer (and director/star) of Best Picture Argo. "We were playing poker, and Affleck was like, 'Hey, man, when did you put the fireplaces in?' They were always here, and he had no idea. We still refer to it as Ben's house, which is fuckin' weird, because he lived in it way shorter than we did."
Smith leans against the bar in the upstairs living room. Standing nearby is eternal sidekick Jason Mewes, the other half of the indie-film comic duo Jay and Silent Bob. They've seemed inseparable ever since Smith introduced them to the world as two dudes selling weed outside a convenience store in his 1994 indie comedy Clerks. That was followed by several more films, the short-lived Clerks: The Animated Series, an ongoing series of podcasts (a.k.a. Smodcasts), a new animated movie and their current live tour across the U.S.
They're back with Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie!, being rolled out to fans through a series of premieres followed by live Q&A sessions with the two goofballs. Smith is also currently writing Clerks III. It all comes after a rough period of drug addiction for Mewes, which threatened to derail all Jay and Silent Bob activity permanently.
"Our friendship has become what everyone assumed what it was from those movies," says Smith, the chatty alter ego to the mostly speechless Silent Bob of the long overcoat and backwards cap. "If you told me five years ago 'You're going to be in business with Jason Mewes,' I would be, 'No way – you can't depend on him.'"
On this afternoon, Mewes counts 1,036 days sober, and he credits the podcast for keeping him straight. "I tell stories and talk about shooting puddle water and toilet water and that reminds me, 'Wow, I don't ever want to be sitting in a toilet shooting toilet water – it's disgusting,'" he says.
Mewes was clean and sober once before for a solid five years, but then quietly slipped back into addiction, telling no one. Despite a mountain of evidence, Smith was slow to recognize it, even during a strange trip to Las Vegas together.
"I walk into his room and it's something out a David Lynch movie," Smith says. "I open the door, and there is Jason standing up in the middle of the room. He's got massive Vegas windows behind him, the desert and all the casinos. The lights are on full fuckin' bore, the TV is not even on, and he's standing there eyes closed, swinging at the air."
After an intervention and some false starts, Mewes successfully completed rehab, but he needed something to keep him busy and healthy afterwards. Mewes suggested they do their own podcast together – a format Smith had been doing for years for his huge fanbase, to great success.
"I say, what would you like to talk about?" recalls Smith. "And he was like, 'We can talk about pussy and fuckin' Star Wars . . .' And I said, Oh, we've done a bunch of that. You know what would really be interesting? Talk about the drugs. That will keep you on the straight and narrow, too. To name it is to claim it, just like going to a meeting."
The continuing show is called Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, and it has recounted Mewes' drug misadventures in vivid detail. Their starting point was a series of essays Smith published online called "Me and My Shadow." (Documenting their live show is the just-released two-disc DVD Jay and Silent Bob Get Irish.) The Smodcast now has a regular audience of 400,000, says Smith.
"Most people have a filter. They think it, and it drops through a filter before they say it," says Smith. "He doesn't, so it goes from brain to mouth. He's got a charming personality and a great disposition, where he gets away with saying some pretty heinous things that others wouldn't."
While the Jay character in Smith's films was based entirely on actual behavior and crazy dialogue he'd witnessed Mewes unleash in public, his friend couldn't turn it on and off at will for an audience. Unlike the director, he wasn't a natural raconteur, so he's had to work at it, keeping a notebook handy and a plan before stepping onstage. The podcast experience has turned Mewes into a dependable live performer without a script.
"It was already me anyway," Mewes says of the Jay character as written for the screen by Smith. "A lot of the stuff written down is stuff I have said over the years. Of course, Kevin would add plot lines. When we do the animation voiceover, I get to be Jay 100 percent. When I'm walking around I know I can't pull my balls out now because it would offend you, but the Jay character would pull his balls out. I still enjoy the movies and the character because I get to let loose."
One day, Mewes told Smith he'd decided he wanted to be a producer, so Smith gave him a script for Jay and Silent Bob as superheroes Bluntman and Chronic, which he'd written 10 years earlier for a comic book series. Mewes expanded on that and turned it into Groovy Movie.
As a sign of his growing trust, Smith gave Mewes the rights to the movie character "Jay," and the list of projects they have planned together is getting bigger. "Last time it was, 'You got clean, good job, bye,' and I'm off to work on my other shit," says Smith. "This time around, we started doing everything together. We became really best friends. I spend more time with Jason that anyone other than my wife at this point. We walk fuckin' dogs together."
Even so, as he finishes the final pages of Clerks III, Smith says writing Jay and Silent Bob into a movie in 2013 was a struggle at first, even for his distinctive "View Askew" universe. "I don't know how to put two middle-aged stoners in a movie anymore," says Smith. "For a while we weren't going to be in it. Finally, when I started writing in earnest about a month ago, I found a way for us to do it. Why would we still be leaning outside those stores? I guess slinging weed is enough reason to be there."
5/15 Moore Theater, Seattle
5/17 Midland Theater, Kansas City, MO
5/18 The Pageant, St. Louis
5/19 The Vic Theater, Chicago
5/20 Clowes Memorial Hall, Indianapolis
5/21 Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI
5/22 Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
6/5 The National, Richmond, VA
6/6 The Fillmore Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
6/7 Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse, Columbus, OH
6/8 Madison Theater, Covington, KY
6/9 Oaks Theater, Oakmont, PA
7/5 The Plaza Live, Orlando, FL
7/6 The Palladium Theatre, St. Petersburg, FL
7/25 Paramount Theater, Austin, TX