"We can’t all be Superman, but we sure as shit can train hard, and with loads of practice, we can be Batman," writes Kevin Smith in Tough Shit: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. "And who the fuck doesn’t wanna be Batman? Batman has an impeccable moral compass, he’s clever and mysterious, and when fucktards get sassy, he punches them in the face."
Tough Shit is sort of an autobiography crossed with a motivational essay, with tons of pop culture references and dick and fart jokes thrown in, natch. Whereas previous books authored by the director of Clerks, Chasing Amy and Red State have either been a collection of magazine columns (Silent Bob Speaks), a compilation of blog posts (My Boring Ass Life) or a transcription of podcasts (Shooting the Shit With Kevin Smith: The Best of SModcast), to my knowledge this is the first time he’s actually sat down to write a book.
As such, there’s some structure and progression throughout Tough Shit – inasmuch as a notorious stoner can stay focused over hundreds of pages! Then again, as fans of Smith’s movies, comics and podcasts know, it’s often in the tangents and random asides that you find his funniest, wittiest gems.
Kevin Smith’s life advice is simple enough, but nonetheless worthy. "In the face of such hopelessness as our eventual, unavoidable death, there is little sense in not at least trying to accomplish all of your wildest dreams in life," he sums it up in the intro. A few chapters later, he adds: "Figure out what you love to do, then figure out how to get paid to do it."
Those things we’ve all heard about from various corners, but less common is the realization that "sometimes you can start out doing what you love, and then doing what you love starts to become work."
And so after making arguably his best film, 2006′s Clerks 2, a heartfelt follow-up to his ultra-indie debut, Smith found himself directing moderately entertaining but generic movies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno ("not me pushing at the edge of the envelope or imparting anything new; it’s really just me running out of shit to say in movies") and Cop Out (starring Bruce Willis, who "turned out to be the unhappiest, most bitter, and meanest emo-bitch I’ve ever met at any job I’ve held down" – ouch!).
As much as movies and comic books, Smith loves himself some hockey, and a big chunk of Tough Shit is devoted to Canada’s national pastime, be it throwaway references to the Montreal Forum and Rocket Richard or turning the sport into an existential metaphor ("We’re all hockey players at heart. We’re goal-oriented, but it’s never easy finding twine because we get hit hard when we rush the net…").
And then there’s Wayne Gretzky, who’s become a veritable role model for Smith, who adopted a few of the Greatest’s mottos, notably "Don’t go where the puck’s been; go where it’s gonna be" and "You miss a hundred percent of the shots you never take." In other words, it’s much better to think ahead than to follow behind, and you’re only certain to fail when you do nothing. Whereas if you at least give it a try, you have at least some chance of putting the biscuit in the basket…
In Smith’s case, this meant returning to ultra-indie filmmaking and making a lean and mean little action-horror flick called Red State, which he then took on the road and brought to his fans himself instead of selling it off to a studio and letting them market it. "When Trent Reznor and Radiohead unplugged from their labels and began dealing directly with their audience, they started a fire that would ultimately change the music business forever, putting control back into the hands of the artist. But what happens if you try it in film?"
Works out pretty well, it turns out (read our Kevin Smith cover story from last summer for more on the whole Red State adventure: www.hour.ca/2011/08/11/kevin-smith-silent-bob-no-more). But even though this reignited the filmmaker’s passion, he still plans to hang up his skates, so to speak, after directing one last feature, a hockey comedy entitled Hit Somebody.
As he explains in Tough Shit, it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of other things to keep himself busy with, from his podcast network to his speaking tours and, most recently, the AMC TV reality series Comic Book Men, which is shot at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, his New Jersey comic book store. Not to mention spending time with his wife, daughter and friends, and generally trying to be more like Ferris Bueller, another of his role models, from whom he’s borrowed this quote: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Tough Shit: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good
By Kevin Smith
Gotham Books, 272 pages