Obvious but partial explanation: Smith’s a talker, but not so much a director. He acknowledges this more and more often with the passage of time; he even mentions it in both the aforelinked interviews, in the context of phasing out the filmmaking element of his career. Podthinking about his podcast, SMODcast, I wrote that a great podcaster by the name of Kevin Smith, born in 1980, hit his early-mid-twenties — that personal era of do-or-die ambition — in the early-mid-2000s, just as the medium of podcasting emerged. Alas, he exists only in an alternate universe. The Kevin Smith of our timeline, born ten years earlier, entered his early-mid-twenties in the early-mid-nineties, the dawn of the U.S. low-budget indie film boom.
Smith knows this; indeed, he seems to know himself well. In his conversation with Carolla, he says that, if he wasn’t Kevin Smith, he’d be Kevin Smith’s biggest fan, the leader of Kevin Smith’s fan club, maybe even Kevin Smith’s adulation-crazed assassin. And I believe him! You can tell that he makes exactly the sort of stuff he himself likes, a strategy that sounds stupidly obvious but which requires you to know what you like in the first place. Earning that knowledege with any kind of solidity, I find, turns out to be a non-trivial task.
While I may not be totally into everything Smith does, I’m more than down with the fact that he does all of it. His filmmaking, podcasting, public speaking, and comic-book writing are my interviewing, writing, filmmaking, and sound manipulation. Of course, he has a certain something I lack, besides the ability to rock denim shants: success. No matter how unlikely a branch he adds to his career, he maintains an undeniable, unconflicted Kevin Smith-iness at its core; the majority of his work falls under the heading of “being Kevin Smith.” (The same goes, I would guess, for Carolla and Maron.) Most of what he shoots, writes, or says aligns with the very essence of Kevin Smith, and from that he draws great freedom. For all the variety of his ventures, he still leads a unified life, and his audience knows and appreciates this.
Can I claim the same thing? Doubt it. I wouldn’t even know how to go about describing what “Colin Marshall-iness” is. When I ask myself if product x, y, or z I’ve produced would truly please me were I not creator, I tend to assume it would, but I have no idea how to test that assumption. I envy Smith his seemingly unambiguous internal compass; sometimes mine just sort of spins. Even if I do know my own tastes, can I use them as a channel through which to connect with humanity? Smith seems to have done just that, mediating his own inclination toward Jedis and dick jokes to cultivate thousands upon thousands of people desperate to pay sixty bucks just to hear him talk. But how to develop a Smithian self-knowledge, a Smithian unification, a Smithian — dare I say it — honesty?