Ed Johnson-Ott

Q&A with Kevin Smith

Thursday, Feb. 2, 8 p.m.

Hilbert Circle Theatre,

45 Monument Circle

Tickets: 317-639-4300 or 800-366-8457

Kevin Smith appears at Hilbert Circle Theatre on Thursday.

On Thursday night, writer/director/actor/cult hero Kevin Smith, the man behind Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl and the upcoming Clerks II, will appear at the Hilbert Circle Theater for an evening-long Q&A session. Let's think about Smith's midweek plans for a moment. He will board a plane and fly to Indianapolis, then travel from his hotel to a theater where people have paid to listen to him chat.

"That's kinda sweet, isn't it?" said the likable Smith during a phone conversation Friday. "I mean, can you imagine getting paid to stand there and talk about yourself? It's a byproduct of my career that I never thought I'd see, only because I couldn't have imagined it ... It makes you feel fantastic. That's why the Q&As last as long as they do. In the last five years I don't think I've done a Q&A that's lasted shorter than four hours. The longest one I've done was seven hours."

I wondered how, having done Q&A sessions all over the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Smith was able to keep the proceedings fresh. He acknowledged that people inevitably ask certain similar questions that lead to similar answers. "If each Q&A was considered a set," he said, "kind of like a stand-up set or a concert set, I mean there's definitely 50 percent of that set that I know by heart by this point. You're telling stories where you can kind of point like Babe Ruth to the laugh moments, like you can call it before you even say it. But the beauty of the live audiences is that even though you have a large percentage of re-tells, the night and the audience dictate where you're going. So you wind up with fresh material at each venue."

In addition to writing and directing Clerks II, Smith appears in the supporting cast, reprising his beloved Silent Bob character. He also has roles in two other upcoming films, writer-director Richard Kelly's Southland Tales and Catch and Release starring Jennifer Gardner.

Despite all the writing and filming and acting and answering questions, Smith finds time for movies and TV, including the hit comedies The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers, which caught the moviemaker by surprise. He explained, "I used to feel like in the mid to late '90s and all the way up to kind of recently that I made a certain kind of comedy that the studio system really didn't make. Most of their comedies seemed kind of tepid to me, while the stuff I did kind of went a bit edgier, which is why I figured the audiences for them were so marginal. Then I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers, which are two examples of studio comedies that are pretty edgy, and I was just like, 'Wow, I guess edge and comedy have kind of become the standard.' So I'm no longer the dude that sits on the sidelines doing his weird little movies that are really profane and really sweet at the same time."

On the TV front, Smith keeps up with My Name is Earl, which stars Jason Lee, who made his mark as an actor in Smith movies. "Finally everyone is catching up with what I've been saying for 10 years, which is that this guy is good, this dude is a fantastic actor and charming as hell. He really deserves his success."

Lee is one of a number of Smith vets that will pop up in Clerks II, which picks up on the lives of clerks Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) years after the first film. The idea for the film came when Smith was working on the Clerks 10th anniversary DVD set last year and renewed his love affair with the characters. "It's kind of a movie about what happens to the angry young man when he hits 30-something. You know, when you've lived your life as an ironic observer and haven't really partaken, or haven't really gone out there and made your mark, it's really rather easy to sit back and snipe. It's much harder to actually put yourself in gear and do something that could be sniped at. And the movie kind of examines that.

"For a long time, Chasing Amy was my all-time favorite of the stuff I've done, but Clerks II has supplanted it because it really speaks to me in the way Chasing Amy spoke to me at the time I made it. With Chasing Amy I was Holden McNeil. I was very much the sexually insecure guy who couldn't get over his girlfriend's past and whatnot and making that movie was a big leap forward. It was therapy. Clerks II has had a similar impact where I really started to identify with Randal when I was writing it. Making the movie was cathartic. It led me to grow up in a way I wasn't aware I still needed to grow up."

You can find out more about the growth of Kevin Smith when he answers questions Thursday night. Tickets run from $15 to $75, which prompted Smith to exclaim, "Good lord, I wouldn't pay $75 to see me. It's kind of flattering but it's intimidating and daunting. I mean, $75 to see my fat ass on stage sweating?! I'll try to make it worth their while, man." When I reminded him that the $75 seatholders were surely hardcore fans, he said, "Right. It's the people in the $15 seats I've got to worry about."


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