Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes

My interview with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes is this week's cover story at WE.

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith: reports of Mewes death have been greatly exaggerated.
Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith: reports of Mewes death have been greatly exaggerated.
Credit: Supplied

ENDLESS LOVE: Jay and Silent Bob grow up

Kevin Smith’s evolution from filmmaker/actor to Prince of Podcasts has been a well-documented series of starts, stops and staggeringly strange sidetracks. He spent the indie cred he earned from his 1994 debut Clerks on a variety of beloved fan favourites (Chasing Amy, Red State) and critical flops (Jersey Girl, Cop Out). He’s also never shied away from spilling his guts, be it online, via Twitter, in interviews or — starting in 2007 — his first podcast called Smodcast, recorded with friend and business partner Scott Mosier. That podcast has elevated Smith into a whole new career, as the master of a veritable podcast empire known as the Smodcast Podcast network.

It’s been a vastly different experience for friend and frequent co-star Jason Mewes. He and Smith made their acting debuts in Clerks as Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). The characters caught on with fans and went on to appear in most of Smith’s earlier films, and even headlining Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  But Mewes’ career was sidelined by a years-long detour into drug addiction. For a long time it seemed to most fans that the funny, endearing actor had taken his embodiment of his vulgar, stoner character to extremes. Smith even recalls People magazine asking him for a comment on Mewes’ (incorrectly) reported overdose death. After several attempts, Mewes finally got sober and Smith convinced him to open up about his experiences on — what else — a podcast. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old started in 2010. The pair just recorded their 58th episode and have taken the show on the road. In advance of their Dec. 7 show at the Vogue, Smith and Mewes spoke with WE in separate interviews, opening up about the ways heroin messed with their friendship, recovery and redemption.


I feel like I know everything about you from listening to Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. Like, from genitals to drugs. Is there anything off-limits to you?
No. I mean there’s definitely been times where — my wife tours with us and I’ll have told Kevin something about us and it’s not even that I don’t want to talk about it ‘cause I’m embarrassed, but I’m worried she’ll get mad. There’s definitely stuff I probably know about Kevin that I couldn’t bring up without asking him first... But he’s usually open to everything, too.

You’ve done a lot of these shows and talk all the time. Do you ever run out of stuff?
I can definitely say I’m getting close on running out of sex stories and stuff. Ten years ago, being really high and drunk or going out to a club and meeting some girl, like we’ll be talking and when we’re on stage I’d remember something, like, ‘Holy crap! I remember that same night this happened!’ There’s still stuff to talk about, I mean day-to-day stuff goes on, but I try not to tell anything twice. I try to keep it fresh. But the thing is I’ve been with wife now for almost six years, so the adventures and the fun of going out and meeting brand new girls and going out and doing crazy stuff has slowed down. But there are still interesting things that happen.

In the last episode you were detailing this lengthy OxyContin story and I was struck by just how much crafty-ness goes into scoring.
Oh definitely... You sit there and think of ways like, ‘Oh my friend just got a $1,000 cheque and if I tell him that my electric’s getting shut off and it’s only $110 he’ll believe it because it’s a weird number and he won’t want me to go without electric, and then I need a ride to the dope man so I’ll tell him I have to go pay my electric bill at this place and then I’ll tell him to park around the corner so he doesn’t realize I’m going into a crack house and not a business.’ It’s pretty crazy the ideas you come up with and the manipulation.

How long have you been sober?
It’s been 607 days. I keep it on my computer and track it before a show.

Do you find it difficult to be around weed?
No, not at all. My wife smokes, my buddies smoke. Before I even got sober I stopped smoking weed. When my mom was really sick I was taking care of her, she got THC pills, and I remember it saying take one every hour or so and I took, like, three, thinking, oh, I smoke weed, I’m going to need more.’ So I took three and I remember sitting there, tripping out like I was on acid. My mom had trouble breathing on a daily basis, but looking at her messed up it was really exaggerated and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to call the hospital but I can’t because I’m so high and the cops are gonna come.’ And I remember thinking, if I’m this out of it, I can’t take care of my mom. So it scared me from wanting to smoke weed ever again. It sounds ridiculous, but I have flashbacks of me tripping out that day and I’m afraid if I smoke I’d trip out like that. So, weed doesn’t bother me. Drinking, I don’t know, I like drinking but it’s just easier not drinking. It would be so obvious and I’d be busted and I’d have to tell everyone I drank and I fucked up, then my wife would be mad, then the next day I’d have a hangover and then it definitely wouldn’t be worth it. I stay away from pills, heroin and coke, of course. If I know any one’s doing that, I just don’t surround myself with them.

Kevin calls himself a goody-two-shoes and says that you’re the bad boy, but you seem to have a good-guy side, too.
As much as everything was messed up when I was younger — like, my grandma raised me for years and, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say I was a bad boy, but I was more carefree and willing to try and experiment with stuff than Kevin. I didn’t have my parents there. Like, he even says, if he was going out at 10 o’clock at night and came home late, he’d get yelled at and they’d wonder where he was. At 12 or 13 years old, I was allowed out ‘til one or two in the morning. It was different for me.

Do you feel content now?
Yes, definitely. Work-wise, it’s pretty awesome how we all get to work with each other and tour together and all that. I almost want to work more. We work a lot, but I want to work more. The only thing that could fulfill me anymore is if we could — I’ve been telling Kevin that the ideal situation for me is if we could do his next movie and the touring through June, but then start a TV show. We could work together every day and make enough money to live and just spend every day together.


The last time we spoke, in March, 2009, it was pre-Cop Out, pre-Red State and pre-your Smodcast empire. Your life has had a complete overhaul.
And the powerhouse podcast, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s eye. Mewes was still crawling from the wreckage. He’d fallen off the wagon pretty badly and he had just started to get clean; maybe he had three months under his belt when Smodcastle opened its doors. He’s not himself when he’s doing the nonsense... We had to fill a slot, and Mewes was around, so I said, ‘Hey, we could do a Jay show, you and me, and talk about gettin’ clean.’ For years I’d told him, ‘Dude, just talk about your problems, just tell people you used heroin, tell people about the OxyContin. It’s much easier to fight a dragon if everyone can see it. Right now it’s just you.’ And he’d be like, ‘I can’t man because you don’t get hired after people find out you’re doing skin-poppin’ drugs.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but you’re being held prisoner to it, even when it’s in the past.’ We went for it and called it Jay and Silent Bob Get Old... Within six months that dude had gone from, ‘Uh, I don’t know if I want to do this’ to selling out a 1,600-seater. It was just predicated on sitting there talking about his drug abuse past, not to mention his myriad sexual antics. We didn’t conceive it as an intervention podcast, but by the time we got to the sixth episode, it became clear that’s what it was... The show is kind of like a filthy, funny version of an AA meeting. It mixes in the tragic, because make no mistake, these tales of heroin are tragic. They’re cautionary tales. They’re certainly not meant to encourage anyone to pick up a needle.

Or glorify it.
Not in the least! But he’s entertaining as hell because he can talk about doing heinous stuff to his body and still make it kind of funny... That podcast has saved his life, man, or it’s certainly changed his life. The idea of having so much of my life and future tied up with Mewes, it wasn’t that way anymore. At points I didn’t want to make those movies anymore because the dude was such a prisoner to the heroin. It was irritating. You want to tell an addict to just shake it, stop doing it, but it’s much deeper than that. I have no experience with that kind of stuff. For me it’s like dieting. First do less and then do nothing, but I’m the last guy in the world who should be giving dieting advice. It was a trying time back then, so much so that if someone had said, ‘Hey man, you and Mewes will be in hardcore business together and you’ll make your living sitting together talking, more so than from the movies,’ I would have been like, you’re absolutely fucking crazy. But that’s where we stand today. He’s living proof that you can’t count anyone out. You know, Mewes was a guy that none of us wanted to let go because he’s all heart. Nickle-fucking-head, but all heart. He had gone down the path so many times, we’d begun to count him out. But it all came from that podcast, because he figured out his own self worth.

And he’s so ridiculously endearing.
Ah, he is! And this is a dude who stole money from me, this motherfucker, $1,100! I remember asking the cop at what point I could prosecute and it was $1,000. That’s how we got him into rehab the first time. This is a dude who’s fucked me over and all of his friends over and we still love him. He’s a dude worth saving. And he ended up saving himself. It came from him seeing that people enjoy him, they love him deeply, like not just through the character he plays but who he actually is. He’s a guy who took all the goodwill that came with the character he played and brought it into the real world. And they’re two very different things but at the same time they’re very indiscernible as well. (Laughs) There are very subtle distinctions between Jay in the movie and Jay in real life.

Your careers are tied together. Do you feel a sense of responsibility for him?
I used to. Our relationship was very father-son, which was weird. I got to train for fatherhood long before I had a kid myself. For a long time that was our relationship. For the last year, it’s been, ‘Hey man, you’re my friend. I don’t have to take care of you. You can actually take care of yourself.’ And we actually take care of each other by taking care of ourselves now... I got a phone call from People magazine once saying, ‘Do you have a comment about the overdose death of your friend Jason Mewes?’ Years later to be able to laugh at all that stuff and see him head towards buying his first house and see moments where he can win in a battle of wits with his wife, that’s inspiring.

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