Kevin Smith is king of the Smodcastle
The comically raunchy universe of director Kevin Smith is a place where low-brow humor rules supreme and no subject, no matter how offensive, is off limits. At age 40, Smith has built a career that consists of nine feature films, several comedy podcasts, numerous comic books and -- thanks to his prolific tweeting habit -- more than 1.6 million online followers.
Recently, Smith added another wing to his media biosphere: a 50-seat house in the heart of Theater Row in Hollywood. The modest venue, called the Smodcastle and located at the Complex on Santa Monica Boulevard, serves as headquarters for Smith’s new hybrid experiment combining comedy theater and podcasting.
A few times a week, Smith and a band of garrulous pranksters appear live on the Smodcastle's stage to entertain audiences with their profane brand of trash talk. Past subjects included sex, drugs, filmmaking and a wide range of embarrassing bodily malfunctions described in minute detail. Each session is recorded and then disseminated online as a podcast.
Smith had been podcasting with producer Scott Mosier for two years at Smodcast.com when the filmmaker decided that a live-performance component would add a new dimension to the material.
"The nice thing about the space is that it was born from the podcasts, and then the space has allowed us to grow the network," Smith said in a recent interview.
There are five live shows a week at the Smodcastle, and Smith appears in four of them. Soon, Smith is scheduled to start holding weddings at the theater -- he’s an ordained minister -- which he will also put online as podcasts.
The director said performing in front of a live audience has sharpened his comedy skills. "The shows have completely changed in front of people," he said. "On stage, you don't even go for semi-amusement. You have to kill, you have to make them laugh."
Mewes, who first appeared in Smith’s 1994 breakout hit "Clerks," devoted some recent Smodcastle shows to discussing his past substance-abuse problems. "I don’t really mind talking about it," he said. “There’s a lot of shame in some of the stuff. It’s sad, but there are definitely funny things about it."
The daily operations of the Smodcastle are run by Matt Cohen, a joint-venture partner with Smith in the venue. "It’s a modern update of let’s put on a show in a barn," said Cohen, who was a Smith fan for years and recently worked as a production assistant in Smith’s most recent movie, "Cop Out."
Smodcastle, whose name was suggested by one of Smith’s followers on Twitter, opened for business in late July. Cohen completely refurbished the venue, decking it out to resemble the filmmaker’s basement -- hockey memorabilia, visual references to New Jersey and numerous comic-book-style illustrations of the filmmaker serve as decoration.
During his shows, Smith seems eager to deflate his own outspoken public persona, often making fun of his own girth and, from time to time, referencing his February showdown with Southwest Airlines, in which he was thrown off a flight for being too fat.
Frank sex talk is also a staple of the shows. Malcolm Ingram, a host of "Blow Hard," has spent time on recent episodes talking about his experiences in the gay sex scene.
"The coolest thing about this project is that there are people listening in from everywhere," said Ingram. "In this small, little theater, we’re reaching the world."
Smith said he intends to keep appearing at the Smodcastle through the making of his movie "Red State," which is conveniently shooting in L.A.
"I like the instant feedback that theater gives you," said the director. "It’s so creatively fulfilling and it's so much fun. Last year, I earned more money talking than directing. It feels way more comfortable. Maybe this was where I was meant to be."
-- David Ng
Top photo: Kevin Smith, left, and Jason Mewes on stage at the Smodcastle in Hollywood. Credit: Kevin Smith / 15 Minutes
Middle photo: Mewes, left, and Smith in a scene from "Clerks II." Credit: Darren Michaels / The Weinstein Co.
Bottom photo: Smith, left, with Scott Mosier at the Smodcastle. Credit: Kevin Smith / 15 Minutes