Kevin Smith Doesn't Understand Why Kevin Smith Fans Like Clerks

Nearly 30 years ago, a young filmmaker from New Jersey sold all of his comic books and maxed out his credit cards after dropping out of film school in order to make a movie. Now, thanks to that little movie called "Clerks," Kevin Smith has been able to make a career as a writer, director, producer, podcaster, and even an actor despite rarely having to say anything. For a whole generation of fans, his films and the short-lived animated series that made up his New Jersey Trilogy (which includes well over three movies at this point) was the OG cinematic universe. How do you like the sound of them apples, Marvel Studios?

After many years of trying, Smith finally has a proper trilogy in his filmography thanks to the upcoming "Clerks III." The third chapter is set to come full circle in an extremely meta way as Dante Hicks and Randal Graves decide to make their own movie about being clerks at a convenience store. Just as the filmmaker did all those years ago, the beloved characters played by Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson will capture their story on camera and hope for the best.

While we'll have to wait a few months to see how it works out for Dante and Randal, things have worked out pretty well for Smith. Jay and Silent Bob have joined the pantheon of iconic onscreen duos alongside Cheech and Chong, Han Solo and Chewbacca, or Jake and Elwood Blues. Legions of his fans pack into Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con for his annual town hall presentation. And he still gets to tell the stories that he wants to tell in various mediums. Although, there seems to be a point where he didn't think that anyone would connect with his breakout indie film.

Not even supposed to be here today

Before of his grand appearance at Hall H at this year's SDCC (and in between all the other events on his packed con schedule), Kevin Smith spoke to Deadline about returning to the mecca of pop culture after a pandemic-related hiatus, his brand of filmmaking, and his latest cinematic trip back to the Quick Stop.

In this conversation, he was asked whether he initially conceived his drug-dealing delinquents as breakout stars that could appear in multiple projects outside of "Clerks." Not only did that thought never cross his mind, but Smith wasn't sure that anyone outside of his home state would even connect with his first movie.

"Never in a million years. It's nice to be able to go home to those characters, and it's beautiful that people still give a s**t about 'em. Never imagined 'Clerks' would take on a life of its own. I never quite understood why people like 'Clerks' so much. I didn't think it would play outside of New Jersey because it's a very regional, workplace comedy. But you don't have to be from New Jersey to identify with having a job that you hate. It's a universal truth for most people. Being able to turn that experience into a trilogy was great."

As he said, there's definitely a universal truth contained in "Clerks" when it comes to being unhappy with your job. Although, I feel like there's more to it than just that. I can't speak for all Kevin Smith fans, but I know why I like "Clerks." In a nutshell, that movie, along with Smith's other films from "Mallrats" to "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," really gave me a sense of belonging.

What kind of convenience store do you run here?

When I first found Smith's work, I was too young to be consuming media like this. He even said this to me himself. Rather than being someone that understood what it was like to work in a convenience store (or anywhere, for that matter), I was in 7th or 8th grade — definitely not in high school yet. I was also fat, nerdy, and the only Asian-American and non-Catholic student in my year at a predominantly Irish and Italian Catholic grade school. Instead of sports, I liked getting lost in stories via film, TV, professional wrestling, and comics. And I didn't really have anyone my own age to talk to about most of the things I liked because this was before I had access to chatrooms and message boards on the internet. When people talking about feeling "other," that was me 100%.

Eventually, I finally found a group of like-minded friends that introduced me to "Clerks." Likely for the first time, I was watching a movie where characters were openly talking about the same things as my compatriots. Instead of big budget stunts or explosions or grand love stories, there was cursing, pop culture references, and toilet humor. Unlike the sea of mainstream films I watched at the time, this stood out to me because it made me think that filmmaking might be something that I could do.

And that's what we did. When we weren't being mallrats like Brodie Bruce, we were inspired by Smith's film to make our own movies. That would evolve into me studying screenwriting in college and ultimately writing this article. I really feel like none of this would have happened without this "regional workplace comedy." So thanks for that, Kevin Smith. I really appreciate it.