Kevin Smith at Pabst Theater
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Hell hath no fury like a no-talent scorned. Like the perpetually offended Sarah Palin and disgraced, gay-unfriendly former Miss California Carrie Prejean, writer-director-self-described "champion of mediocrity" Kevin Smith never seems to be a stranger to controversy. A recent incident in which Smith was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for being too hefty led to an insufferable barrage of self-righteous interviews and indignant tweets. Unsurprisingly, Smith addressed the Southwest flap at the top of Friday's capacity show at The Pabst Theater. What was surprising, however, was that the 39-year-old used the fiasco to launch into a rambling, hilarious story about gay tour buses, zebra-print body pillows, and "jerking off all the way from L.A. to Milwaukee." Clad in a black bathrobe and a pair of jean shorts ("Jorts—shants, if you will"), Smith entered to a standing ovation and held court among his rabid fans for over three hours. An evening with Wilford Brimley this was not.
It was Smith’s first visit to Wisconsin, which provided the New Jersey native plenty of material early in the evening. After asking that the house lights be raised—they would remain up throughout the entire evening—Smith peered out and quipped, "Someone told me people in Wisconsin look like me." Later, a giddy fan asked why a character in Smith's 1999 film, Dogma, referred to Wisconsin as "worse than Hell." The director explained that he chose Wisconsin simply by looking at a globe and finding the state that was "to the left of Illinois." After his error in basic geography was pointed out, Smith replied, "Um, it was an old globe. It had only one state: Pangaea."
To call Friday’s assembled horde "rabid" would be a gross understatement—after all, this was a crowd that broke into rapturous applause at the mention of a possible Jersey Girl 2. Questioners were so well versed in every bit of Smith minutiae that at times the Q&A seemed to be a casual conversation between friends. Like his movies, that conversation was shambling, adolescent, and unrelentingly smutty. Typical subjects included anal sex, masturbation, bodily excretions, writing comic books while high, and Star Wars. Smith also spent an exorbitant amount of time discussing his obsession with Fleshlights, a line of male sex toys. A lengthy anecdote about his newest film, the poorly received Cop Out (the original title was revealed to be A Couple Of Dicks), left the crowd howling, and was easily more entertaining than the movie itself.
Did I mention this went on for three hours? Even the most fawning of fans seemed restless around the three-hour mark, and Smith himself appeared to grow tired and deflated as the night wore on. A surprisingly poignant discussion of the late George Carlin late in show broke things up nicely, however, and once again demonstrated Smith's talent as a deft raconteur. Like most of the evening's material, the story was frank, hilarious, and expertly told. Although the crowd was stocked with nothing but die-hards, even the most fervent of Smith's detractors could have found something worthwhile in the night's proceedings. Jersey Girl 2, however, might be pushing it.