I remember a time many years ago when I was directing Samuel Becket's play Waiting For Godot and being surprised at how so many people still didn't understand what it was about. We had been booked to perform it at a private school where the senior class was studying it, and before the show I got up to introduce the play and asked the kids to tell me truthfully how many of them found the play boring. After a little hesitation nearly all of them raised their hands, and I told them, well you're right, it's really boring.
I then told them a little of the play's history, how the first time an English language audience understand the show, really related to it, was when a production of the play was mounted at San Quentin prison for guys serving long term or life sentences. They had immediately understood, and identified with, the way the characters were so desperate to find something, anything, to do that would pass the time waiting for a day to end so they could get onto the next day and do the same thing all over again.
It was Beckett's contention that the majority of us spent our time exactly as his character's did in vain search of something to fill the hours of the day with meaning. Our jobs, our religious beliefs, and everything else that we feel or do all derive from that impetus. In Waiting For Godot he has taken that to absurd lengths with his two characters as they contemplate everything from suicide to violence in an effort to fill that emptiness.
What, you must be wondering, does Waiting For Godothave to do with Kevin Smith's book, My Boring Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary Of Kevin Smith? Isn't it just a collection of entries from the online diary that he keeps where he talks about the his day to day life and all the boring details there in?
Well, yeah, the book is made up of just over a year of entries that were previously published at Silent Bob Speaks.com, and there is day after day of I got up, let the dogs, out went to the can had a shit while doing this on the lap top, went down to the office and answered e-mail until it was time to take the kid to school; stopped and picked up breakfast for the wife at such and such and came home. The entry would continue on in that vain, until he would fall asleep watching episodes of television he'd bought through i-Tunes.
Of course since he is Kevin Smith the film director, he does occasionally lead a more exciting life than most people and periodically there are entries that deal with his life in film. The year or so in question that makes up this book includes an account of his first appearance in a film playing somebody aside from Silent Bob, when he made the movie Catch And Release, describes appearing opposite Bruce Willis for one scene in the latest instalment of the Die Hard franchise, and relates the making of his own movie, Clerks ll.
Oh and he does other stuff, like appearances at comic conventions, radio interviews about Star Wars: The Revenge Of The Sith, fundraisers he and his wife do for their daughter's school, signing shit-loads of merchandise to be sold at his comic stores or through his View Askew company's web site, and going to the Cannes film festival with Clerks ll and receiving an eight minute standing ovation at the conclusion of its showing. You know trivial, boring, day to day stuff that all of us experience.
Of course there has to be something about Jason Mewes in all this too. For those of you from another planet, Jason has played Jay, the long haired, loud mouthed, foul mouthed, moronic, stoner, whose a fixture in the world where Clerks 1 & ll, Mallrats, Dogma and of course Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back take place. Inseparable in real life as they are on screen, Kevin's description of Jason's descent into the hell of addiction, and the years he took to climb out again are probably the most devastatingly honest description of the helplessness one must feel when you feel like you're losing a loved one to drugs.
I think what blew me away the most about that part of the book is not once did I get the feeling that Kevin was making himself out to be anything special or any kind of hero because of what his friend went through. I doubt he would have ever even written anything about it if it weren't for the fact that he felt it important that the truth be told about what happened instead of second hand crap turning up in the tabloids. He doesn't make it out to be more or less than what it was, offering no excuses for Jason, (he does offer us the explanation though that Jason's mom was a junkie, he never knew his father, and his mother had him running drugs when he was nine years old, and later became his major supplier for prescription medicines) and taking none of the credit for Jason's recovery.
As a former drug abuser myself whose been clean for fourteen years and still has to say in one way or another, I'm not going to use today, I understood the significance of Jason being able to say "I don't need to do that today, and probably not tomorrow either". When Kevin recounts those moments, they aren't famous people from Hollywood, they are two guys from Jersey - close friends who cared deeply enough about each other that the one had the strength to say no when it was needed and the other to go clean.
That's the thing about Kevin Smith and his movies; he is one of us. I don't mean we're all medium height, husky, white guys who wear shorts and high-tops, but that feeling that has permeated all his films from Clerks through to Jersey Girl (Which I thought was a wonderful movie by the way and am proud to say that I own a copy of the DVD) that it could be you or me up on that screen.
Yes, even Dogma. Suspend your disbelief about angels, apostles, and devils walking the earth for a second, and think about the way Bethany feels about life. We've all been there haven't we? Wondering what the fuck, and if this is your idea of a big plan God, well I don't want to play anymore. I know there are plenty of film types out there that have said Smith's movies only appeal to a certain type of people, and Kevin says he understands if people don't share his skewed view of the world, but there's more to his movies than I think he even gives himself credit for.
I was about a third of the way through My Boring Ass Life, still wondering what the hell was so interesting about reading about some guy talking about spending his hours watching DVDs, going to the toilet, and making runs for fast food when it hit me that it was like watching one of his movies. While this book is about the details of his life, the things he does that fill his time, his movies are about what the people in them do fill their time, and that's something we all do.
Hanging out at the mall, playing video games, dealing drugs, dreaming of the opportunity to be something else, might not be what you do to fill the hours of your day, but you have the equivalent in your life. I know I do. You may not want to identify with Randal and Dante at the Quick Stop, or Jay and Silent Bob, but you can't deny that on some level there's a chord of recognition that's being struck as you watch them. You may not be any more like them than you are like Vladimir and Estragon, but that doesn't mean they don't mirror some part of your life.
The candid honesty in Kevin Smith's My Boring Ass Life that everyone refers to isn't the fact that he admits to masturbating or that he and his wife enjoy having sex together. What takes real guts, in this work ethic, always have to be doing something productive society that we live in is his willingness to admit that he's perfectly content to play on line poker for hours on end, curl up and watch movies with his wife and daughter, write a boring ass diary on the web, or sit and talk for hours with a friend.
To some people that might be a "boring ass life" or seen as wasting time, but I think anybody who makes time in his or her day to do puzzles with his child or let a friend know that he's important is making fine use of his time. Randal and Dante might be "losers", and even that's debatable, but Kevin Smith knows what's important in his life and take care of it. His life is anything but boring and nowhere near a waste.
(Originally posted March 2008)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.