On Saturday night Liz & I went to Hammersmith Apollo to see an appearance by the currently touring film director, actor, comic book enthusiast and self-professed enthusiast of the sound of his own voice – Kevin Smith. What was particularly appealing about this rare appearance was the accompaniment of long-time collaborator, friend and co-star, Jason Mewes. The night was called “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old”, and the promo email highlighted phrases like “They now perform the cult storytelling podcast Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, which chronicles their early years and friendship as they grew up in Hollywood’s gaze”, or “Heading to the UK for the first time ever and reprising their much-loved roles as Jay and Silent Bob, this is what fans everywhere have been waiting for – An opportunity to see their heroes on stage doing what they love, telling stories”.
I guess we got off on the back foot because the ticket said 6:30pm on it, but when we arrived it turned out it was doors at 6:30, show at 8:30. Not particularly out of character for Hammersmith Apollo – that’s how most band gigs work… however over the years I’ve learnt at my peril that comedy gigs at the Apollo generally start at the advertised time. Not the end of the world, although it meant cancelling our plans for later in the night.
Probably the crucial thing about the entire scenario – which was my fault entirely – was that I’d missed the fact that what we were going to was a recording session of a podcast: a podcast by a bloke who unashamedly publishes 2 hour instalments of himself talking. Optimistically I’d hoped that the evening might be a semi-structured storytelling journey, touching on some of the pair’s formative moments and behind-the-scenes material from some of my favourite films. What actually happened was 2 friends sat at a desk and talked about their impressions of England, a few anecdotes from previous visits (mainly Jason Mewes detailing the time he had sex with a girl he knew), and various other trivial bits of chat.
Reading the above makes the whole thing sound like I sat there with a “just licked a cat’s arse” sour look on my face, which genuinely wasn’t the case – Mewes & Smith are great conversationalists and bounced off each other really well; Mewes’ characterisation of Jay in the films was essentially him playing his normal everyday self, and I could listen to them all day. But in terms of “telling stories”, it was more “rambling on with anecdotes that occurred to them as they went” and added up to a fairly self-indulgent night of banter. When Smith talked about smoking a blunt on his incredibly expensive hotel lobby overlooking Hyde Park and thinking “We should do a 6-part UK-style series where Jay & Silent Bob go to England and interact with figures from history”, there were 2 thoughts that were going through my brain:
1) That idea sounds like the kind of has-been tripe that we’d expect of (and criticise for) George Lucas, exploiting popular creative vehicles with non-ideas because they know they’ve got a paying audience who’ll lap up anything due to being so desperate for a further fix of the good stuff.
2) The reason he can probably justify staying in such an expensive hotel is because me and the other 2999 people in the room had paid £35 each to watch this.
Had the night been conducted in a more structured manner, say with pre-show Twitter Q&A or something, then it would’ve at least given Smith & Mewes a bit of direction and prompted a couple of stories which at least someone in the audience wanted to hear or know the answer to.
I noticed Bruce Dessau in the Evening Standard had reviewed the evening on their website, and predictably they attracted the following sort of useless reader comment:
In terms of putting on a show perfectly aimed at and centred towards their ‘actual fans’ the show was a huge success and everyone had a great time. If their humour and show content wasn’t to your liking then the answer is simple – don’t go to see them again. The review above is pointless as those who are willing to pay good money to see the duo already know (inside out) the type of show and content they’ll witness.
And I think therein lies the problem – I’d describe myself as an “actual fan” of Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith: I’ve seen pretty much every film they’ve been in together since 1994, bought most of the DVDs, and generally discussed their output with impassioned enthusiasm on a fairly frequent basis. I’ve already said that I don’t listen to their podcast out of choice because as amusing as they are, it’s fairly pointless and self-indulgent, and doesn’t give any sort of useful return on the time invested other than some deliciously inane giggling. Ultimately it was my triumph of optimism over empirical analysis that made me think anything other than that this might be a podcast recording, and whilst it had plenty of nuggets of Smith/Mewes trademark thirtysomething-going-on-16 humour in it, it really wasn’t a £35 show.