Kevin Smith is most famous as a movie director and writer – the creator of films like Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and the recent Red State. But I wanted to talk to him because of his radio work – or, more accurately, his podcasts. With more than 300,000 monthly downloads of some shows, merchandise, live performances, TV spinoffs and more, Kevin has built an entertainment mecca. Isn’t this exactly the sort of personality radio needs to tap into?
Listen to my conversation with Kevin:
Based on the amount of radio content you create online, if I didn’t know better, I would conclude that you’re a bona fide radio personality.
I’ve got a body built for radio, that’s why I’m drawn to audio so much. It was about six years ago that I first heard the word “podcast.” It was in reference to the Ricky Gervais show. So I thought, wait, they’ll let you record your own radio show? I had always been a huge radio fan going back to growing up in Jersey; I loved listening to Howard Stern. Howard would hate to hear this but I also loved listening to Imus In The Morning with my grandmother.
So being a fan of radio, and particularly frank and candid radio, years later somebody’s telling me that there is technology to actually record your own version of a radio show. Somebody described it best as being like a commentary track without a movie. I was like, I can do those; we’ve been doing those for years. The commentary tracks are almost my favorite part of the process.
So I started sitting down in front of microphones with Scott Mosier (Kevin’s film production partner and podcast co-host), and that was done primarily to pump up our friendship. So we decided to record these conversations, to take them public, secure in the knowledge that the commentary tracks we had done for some of our movies had gone over well. People like listening to me and Scott talk to each other. So I said all right let’s put it out there and see what happens.
But here’s the thing Kevin. You have, from those humble beginnings several years ago, a number of shows: SModcast, the SMorning Show, Hollywood Babble-On, Jay & Silent Bob Get Old. These are not all daily things. Some of these aren’t even weekly things but you’ve got a live streaming version of all this stuff. You’ve got them available for download. Some of them are live performances if people want to see them that way. It’s an incredible collection of content and it leads me to this obvious question: Why are you not on the radio?
I don’t know, man, I was kind of hoping sooner or later, somebody will be like, “He sure has enough time to talk. Let’s just put him on the radio.” Maybe people think, you know, he curses a lot in his podcast.
This is weird. I’ve been doing a little bit of TV lately. We do a show for Hulu called Spoilers and we do a show on AMC called Comic Book Men. For me, that is a proving ground where I can go out and show potential broadcasters that I can keep it clean. “Look, I’m clean on TV so I know how to talk for hours without cursing if I have to.”
I’ve been waiting for somebody to come knocking and ask if I want a radio job. Any time I’m interviewed in any market, I always tell them that if they ever need me to be the wacky weather dude three times a week, even five times a week – I’m up every morning anyway at 4 smoking weed all day, so reach out. I’m sitting here man. Use me. Use me! But I don’t think anyone thinks I’m serious.
What a dream job that would be.
I can’t imagine “dirty words” is the reason why people don’t come knocking. Seriously.
I don’t know what it is. I honestly – maybe some people don’t think I’m serious. Maybe some people think “he wants too much money.” But to me, talk is cheap. It’s just something that I do naturally.
They pay me to make a movie because that’s hard. It takes all of my concentration. It takes me using muscles that I don’t normally use. But the recording, just talking, I’ve got plenty of that to spare. So the idea of giving up 4 hours in the morning or 2 hours of drive time at night, even the midnight shift, all that stuff, that would rock my world.
As long as they were like, “go talk”, I know enough people. I can generate enough conversation and pull in enough guests and stuff. In a world of fiber optics, you do that stuff right from your home. It’s appealing as hell to me. Believe me, I want it. I’m just waiting for somebody to come knocking and be like, “Are you serious about this?” I’ll be like, “Yes! Yes! I’m so serious about it.”
I can’t imagine a more direct path than this one because a lot of people who matter will listen to this and they’ll say, “Gosh, I thought he was kidding. I thought this huge wealth of content online was just a joke.”
It is kind of a joke. Really, because you’ve got to love our world to get into it. That’s what I discovered over the course of the five years we’re doing these. Every one of the shows on the SModcast Network is some piece of me or a lot of me if I’m front and center or I’m even tangentially involved.
The whole site started as a biography. I was like let me do an audio biography, and these are all the things that matter to me and this is the story of my life. These are my friends. Oh look, they’ve got their own shows and stuff like that. It kind of grew but the original idea was to kind of making this living, breathing, ongoing biography.
The fact that people have tuned in and we got to a place where with SModcast and Jay & Silent Bob Get Old, you’re talking about shows that get 300,000 downloads per week. So at that point, it’s like a small market.
When I grew up in Jersey, there was a small radio station called The Rat. They had a broadcast signal that was near us. Normally we got our radio signal out in New York. We were so close that it was all New York stations. But that one was local. It was a little house with a massive antenna in Monmouth County and it always captured my imagination because I’m like, somebody owns that. Z100 I could never see or K-Rock, I didn’t know where these places were. They were buried in the city of Manhattan. But I saw this little building and a large antenna, and I always said, “That’s what I’d love to do, man, own a radio station, just do that all day long.”
Then we got to a place with technology where I didn’t need a little house with a massive antenna. The advent of podcast technology suddenly allowed me to do a quasi-radio show and put it out there every day for people that like my stuff. We’re doing a new podcast, Fat Man on Batman. I’m the host of it. It’s me essentially just talking about Batman with a bunch of people who worked on the character.
The title speaks for itself.
I don’t really bury the lead. But stuff like that allows you to kind of put something out there that’s a little more away from yourself. Like Plus One, the one I do with my wife, it’s literally me and my wife talking about our life. SModcast is me and Mosier free-associating. Jay & Silent Bob Get Old is all about Jason Mewes and I’m kind of just a host or a writer for that show.
Is part of the problem the idea that the demands for 3 or 4 hours of radio a day are greater than what people like you really want to do?
I don’t know. As long as you’re prepared – I mean I’ve been around enough radio shows to know that when the show ends, they get ready for the show the next day.
But the beauty of my world is, we don’t really have to. Every day there’s something happening. Every day I can dig into this big box of memories and be like, boom, we’re off and running on this. Every week there’s a new movie coming out. Every week we seem to be doing something new and not just in one medium, but in another. So suddenly you’re talking about that as well.
Maybe there’s a fear of it being too self-referential but I don’t know, I’ve been listening to Howard Stern for years and you know what Howard Stern talks about? Howard Stern. That’s why people tune in because they like listening to Howard Stern talk about Howard Stern.
As someone who has built this parallel audio universe to radio and yet still has been on a lot of shows and in a lot of stations, how do you see radio today?
I did a straw poll over the course of the Red State tour. We took this movie Red State out in 2011 and toured it ourselves.
Every night at the end of the Q&A I’d say, “Hey man let me just ask you a quick question. How many people heard about this show because they saw me on TV, like on Chelsea Handler or on a CNN show? Let me see a show of hands.” You’d see some hands go up and you go, “Okay, now how many people are here because they heard me on the radio?” That was almost every set of hands going up.
It’s still the dominant medium. They’ll always have you believe that TV is sexy because it’s visual and there’s tons of money there because of advertising. But radio is still the dominant medium because 9 out of 10 of us still get into a car. Even though we have the ability to jack in our iPod, before we do that, the first thing we do is reach for the radio.
You want to stay fresh. You want to feel kind of new. As much as I love listening to the satellite, you’ve got to hear terrestrial to hear what’s going on directly in your community. I jump in the car. I turn on K-Rock and listen to Kevin & Bean in the morning.
So it’s still a part of everybody’s lives. As a guy who has to peddle his own wares for a living, in all the places that I can go to promote my stuff – be it TV, radio, podcasts, even the trailer for a movie in a movie theater or social media, it still feels like I’ve put the most asses in seats simply by going on a radio show.