Every now and then, an artist happens onto that happy accident of inspiration, industry and style and creates something absolutely perfect. I’m sure when Kevin Smith started recording his “Smodcast” podcasts ten years ago today, he never imagined that a decade on it would still be going strong, but halfway into the run of the show, in September of 2012, Smith and his podcasting partner, old friend Scott Mosier, almost by chance, created the strongest episodes of the series. Smodcast 222, “Dobbling”, followed by episode 223, “Emo-Kev and the 24 Karat Case of Love”, episode 224, “Ponder Rockin’ with Emo Kev”, episode 226, “Dark Notions, with Kevin Smith” and finally episode 227, “E-Mos”, perfectly encapsulate everything good about both this podcast, and perhaps the form of podcasting entirely. With nothing but two voices (albeit one ripped from the past), Kevin and Scott deliver an absolutely hilarious but insightful exploration of youth, the process of growing up and finding one’s way in the world, and plenty of lewd jokes. For those of us of a certain age (say, our 40s), there’s glee to be had in revisiting our 20-year-old selves and simultaneously wanting to give them a hug and smack them up the side of the head. But so rarely do we get the chance to actually arrange that meeting. Because of 20-year-old Kevin Smith’s narcissism and loneliness, in these podcast, Smith gets the chance to do just that (and Mosier, by the way, laughs uproariously before supplying genuine insight). It’s every bit as hilarious and profound as one would expect.
As usual, each episode opens with a long digression into whimsy, based on something as trivial as the song Smith or Mosier were listening to before recording began and callbacks to other earlier episodes. “Dobbling” is particularly strong here, opening with Mosier relating a story of a moment in the locker room at his local Y, when awkward naked men were dressing and suddenly a cell phone started to play Air Supply’s “All Out of Love”, causing half-dressed men to prairie dog up over the lockers and look around, confused. Smith and Mosier immediately go to the worst place, characterizing the moment as the men’s chance to say, “It’s okay now? Are we clear? ALL RIGHT!” and proceeding into an orgy. They then move on to fall down the Air Supply rabbit hole, seeing how many of their songs they remember and speculating that the band should have been called “Scare Supply”, re-imagining Russell Hitchcock (“The Little Guy” as Smith calls him) as a demon singing “We represent the lollipop guild”.
The real goldmine comes next, as Kevin and Scott begin listening to audio taken from an old micro-cassette that Kevin had unearthed that contained all the phone messages related to the distribution of Clerks in 1994. After the end of the phone messages, a strange voice appears on the tape, whining about love, life and middlebrow philosophy, offering a running commentary on his existence. The voice is 20-year-old Kevin Smith in 1990, recording a stream-of-consciousness narrative as he cooks dinner, bikes home from work, visits the beach at night alone, and various other self-consciously melodramatic gestures to which many 20-year-olds are inclined. Nicknaming him “Emo Kev”, Smith and Mosier proceed to listen to the tape in short bursts, interrupting the monologue with gales of laughter and pouring a veritable truckload of scorn and ridicule over Emo Kev’s words.
The first gem we hear is Emo Kev biking home and ruminating on a visit he and his friend Ed Hapstack (who later appeared in Clerks)(1) paid to a party at the home of the Paolo family, whose daughters went to high school with them. Decided he was too mature to associate with the younger continent at the party, young Kevin spent time discussing sex with Mr and Mrs Paolo, who he pretentiously describes as a “Very interesting couple”. (Present-day Kevin and Scott picture Emo Kev wearing a robe and sipping brandy, asking pompous questions with a pompous voice. And they picture Mr Paolo wanting to say, “Hey, kid, why are you talking to ME instead of trying to fuck one of my gorgeous daughters?!”) This also brings up Emo Kev’s penchant for constantly using needlessly elaborate vocabulary and correcting his own grammar, sometimes offering four versions of the same sentence. (Present-day Kevin notes that some of this behaviour points towards the writer he would become — “Always re-writing.”)
Emo Kev’s revelations continue, as he mentions an incident in which he had a fit of petulant jealousy against his then-girlfriend, who revealed that she had “fooled around” sexually with another boy, long before she and Kevin were involved. Emo Kev proceeds to visit her house (when she wasn’t home), dismantle the wall of mementos she had erected to their relationship (the “Kev shrine”) and leave in its place a single note with the words “Kim loves Andy”, and their high school yearbook open to said Andy’s photo. Present-day Kevin is appropriately disgusted with his younger self, but Mosier can’t help giggling at such a childish display of immature jealousy. They proceed to christen this version of Kevin “Evil Kev”, but forgive him as the tape continues to run, revealing more of Emo Kev.
Emo Kev obsesses over his own romantic aspirations, mourning the loss of his long-term relationship with a young lady named “Kim” and declaring that he has a “24 karat case of love”, another phrase that sends Mosier into gales of laughter. Present-day Kevin gets a little defensive about Mosier’s amusement, saying, “Hey, you don’t have to enjoy this so much,” but concedes that Emo Kev is fairly pathetic and amusing. Emo Kev lists all the women he’s been with sexually and the list is so long that present-day Kevin can’t help but stop the tape and say, “Whaddup, playa? What are you so fucking sad about? I’ve never seen anyone so mopey about getting so much pussy.” Especially, as Kevin notes, for a little fat kid. Emo Kev starts listing everything he owns at one point (he’s very proud of his “rack system”, an early-90s all-in-one stereo system), to which Mosier responds, “It’s like he’s listing a dowry.” Deadly serious, Emo Kev states that he has so many responsibilities (“You live with your parents!” present-day Kevin yells) and glumly observes that he’s “Just living.” Mosier interrupts to dispute that claim, and present-day Kevin doesn’t object, as a whiny little fat boy wandering around by himself at night recording what he thinks are profound thoughts hardly qualifies as “living”.
Emo Kev winds up on the beach at Sandy Hook, alone, in a place he calls “Ponder Rock”, offering profound observations such as, “When I spit into the ocean, I become part of the ocean,” a point at which present-day Kevin and Mosier can fairly be heard shaking their heads slowly. Another gem comes along when Emo Kev calls himself “The King of Dark Notions”, once again bringing big laughs.
But beyond mocking this self-obsessed little egotist, Mosier starts to analyze him, and offers that he’s just trying to find a path in life. Emo Kev has been out of high school for a little while, working at the Quick Stop convenience store (which would become the setting for Clerks) and essentially going nowhere. It would be almost two more years before Kevin would see Richard Linklater’s Slacker and be inspired to become a filmmaker, finally discovering a path in life. But in 1990, at age 20, Kevin is simply taking stock of what he has and wondering where the future will take him. One of the most significant discoveries here is that Emo-Kev is essentially the prototype for Dante, the protagonist of Clerks. It isn’t particularly surprising that this part of Smith’s best-known film was ripped from life, but it’s interesting to see, in retrospect, how close the resemblance is.
The moments of sincere analysis of poor Emo Kev are intriguing but rather obvious — the fun part of these podcasts is simply listening to two 40-something men enjoy deep belly laughs at the silly self-importance of a lonely 20-year-old fat boy. When Mosier and Smith refer to twitter, where some listeners were posting at the time of the original podcast release that Emo Kev would be so hurt by their mocking, they defend themselves, saying, “Did you hear what this idiot did to his poor girlfriend? He deserves every bit of it.”
Smodcast works best when Smith and Mosier find a topic of common interest and start riffing on it, embellishing trivial pieces of news with their own brand of wit and wisdom, flying off on entertaining digressions. Other key episodes worth revisiting on the tenth anniversary are “True Tales of Canadian Heroism,” in which they recount the true story of the Gimli Glider, “Teddy Bear Picnic,” where they discover the story-songs of Red Sovine, and “Pastards,” where they imagine humans from the future who use their mouths as both mouth and anus after they make a deal with a Space Genie to “Get rid of all the assholes”. Over 300 episodes in and still going strong, Smodcast is one of the best pieces of free entertainment available to a person with a certain sense of humour, and a true embarrassment of riches to be discovered.
1. Hapstack plays the character who calls Dante a “shoepolish-smelling motherfucker”.