You know a book by Kevin Smith, a guy famous for making movies about “dick and fart jokes,” is bound to be crude, lewd and rude. However what might surprise most people, especially those who believe he makes movies about dick and fart jokes and never look further than that, is beneath the bluster and foul mouth of a 12-year-old boy from Jersey are a brain and a heart.
As he himself says in his latest book, Tough Shit: Life Advice From A Fat Lazy Slob Who Did Good published by Penguin Canada, as an overweight kid from Jersey he had to find a way to prevent himself from being made everybody’s favourite punching bag. If people are pissing themselves laughing, it’s much harder for them to beat the crap out of you. So in many ways he’s never stopped being that kid trying to make us laugh.
Now most people who pick up a book by Smith already know what he’s about and aren’t about to be offended by anything he’s got to say. The thing is that a lot of people who pick up this book in the hopes that’s it just like the movies he used to make are going to be somewhat disappointed.
Oh sure, there’s more use of the word pussy not in reference to the family cat than in most works of non-fiction, and not many people dedicate their books to their wife’s sphincter, yet even excesses along those lines aren’t gratuitous.
The book is exactly what the title claims it is, except just like his movies there’s far more to it than you’d expect. As with the majority of Smith’s work, it’s up to you what you take away from it.
With his movies it was laugh at the puerile jokes, enjoy the gross out moments and appreciate the overall anarchy as epitomized by Jay and Silent Bob, or you can go a little deeper and dig his love for the misfits up on screen and the statement that makes.
Of course Smith would have you believe he’s the biggest misfit of them all; an overweight, lazy dude from the armpit of the nation who managed to make it as an outsider in the ultimate insider industry. The thing is he’s right. For all intents and purposes this is not somebody who should have been able to make a career in movies.
His first movie was shot on a shoestring budget with a cast made up of friends and local community theatre actors. Clerks should have disappeared without a trace and Smith with it. However, through sheer balls and faith in his own work he managed to secure a screening for it at Sundance, which led to a distribution deal with the then kings of indie cinema, Miramax. Maybe it was a case of being in the right place at the right time, but if he hadn’t had the chutzpah to make the movie in the first place, to risk it all on a dream, none of it would ever have happened.
As you read through Tough Shit and listen to him recount the various stages of his career and what he considers the important turning points in his life, you’re struck by the size of the risks he took all along the way. The other thing you realize is that no matter how many self-depreciating remarks he might cast his own way, this is a guy who has great faith in his own abilities and the huge amount of courage required to bring his dream of doing what he loves to make a living come true. Of course, he also has his own unique context, which helps him keep things in perspective.