Tusk, or, A Different Kind of Adaptation

In my final year of college I lived in a two bedroom apartment. A good friend and I had one room and essentially a complete stranger had the other. My friend and I would routinely stay up until all hours of the night riffing, concocting ludicrous bits and brutally cackling like a herd of hyenas closing in on a wildebeest carcass in the black Saharan night.

You know, pillow talk.

smodcast

On SModcast, director Kevin Smith’s (Clerks, Dogma, Red State) podcast, he and cohost Scott Mosier do more of less the same thing and have been for some 300+ episodes. Let me tell you, if SModcast is any indication, my friend and I were treating our third roommate to audible gold night after night.

After night.

Of course where my old college chum and I fondly reminisce about our most over the top discussions, Smith, who possesses a seemingly superhuman can-do attitude, turned one of his and Mosier’s ridiculous discourses into a full-fledged movie.

Tusk.

HOUSE ATTACK

HOUSE ATTACK

Based on a fake gumtree.uk classified ad that is one of the better short stories I’ve ever read, Tusk is the story of a click-obsessed podcaster (Justin Long/Mac) who is lured into the Canadian mansion of a charming, eccentric old adventurer with no shortage of stories to tell, played in an insanely captivating performance by Michael Parks.

Seriously, Parks is next level.

The entire 102-minute film is based on Smith and Mosier’s musings upon reading the aforementioned wanted ad in episode 259 of SModcast, The Carpenter and the Walrus, in which most of the movie’s major story beats, including its off-the-wall conclusion and epilogue, are concocted.

And yet, while I enjoyed Tusk, I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed that the film seemed tamer and more grounded than Smith and Mosier’s initial ramblings.

SHADOW ATTACK

SHADOW ATTACK

Listening to SModcast 259 my imagination ran just as rampant as the cohosts’ as they chuckled their way through vivid portraits of pure absurdity. It’s lightening in a bottle. It’s that story you and your old friends don’t so much recite as you do hyperventilate laughing through. The one that makes no sense to anyone outside of the circle. But rather than retelling it for decades until it becomes a practiced monologue that significant others, then kids, then grandkids roll their eyes through, Smith shared that moment of friendship and humor and creativity with the world.

Needless to say, Tusk is a very different type of adaptation.

Does Tusk perfectly capture that magic of two friends snowballing a new bit into a deafening wall of laughter?

Not quite.

But there’s not a squid in the Watchmen movie either.

That’s adaptation.

But in a world of comic book adaptations and young adult novel adaptations and television adaptations and 80s action figure adaptations the prospect of adapting and hour of laughing one’s ass off with a friend is refreshing and admirable.

My old third roommate probably wishes every day that my friend and I had the drive to adapt one of our nightly displays of brilliance that penetrated his paper thin walls Monday-Sunday from Midnight-2:30 into a movie.

I do to.

I can’t speak to whether or not seeing Tusk is better with or without knowing the wealth of background information surrounding its creation. I imagine going into the theater to see it blind would be one of the more insane movie-going experiences ever, whether one ended up enjoying the film or not. For the record, I did.

But whether you see the movie or not, the story of Tusk, from viral classified ad to podcast to film in the course of 15 months, is one we should all take note of.

Smith’s drive to run with his ideas, even if it means an arduous uphill sprint, is an ideal we can all aspire to.

Third roommate, whoever and wherever the hell you are, don’t worry. I’ll write a script about that guy I made up who knew Bruce Springsteen in kindergarten but didn’t realize it was the Bruce Springsteen until his mid-forties despite being a lifelong Springsteen fan. I’ll write it real soon. It might not be as hilarious as it was pounding through your walls that late winter eve before midterms, but I’ll try my best!

#WalrusYes

You can check out the original wanted ad that inspired Tusk here. Trust me, you really should.

Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s SModcast is available on iTunes.

And for more on my college roommate and I’s hilarious rants, check out the Pillow Talk podcast.

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Get Over It, or, Kevin Smith is the Future

On Saturday, August 24th, Kevin Smith and BFF/collaborator Jay Mewes came to The National in Richmond, VA for a screening of their animated film Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, a live Q&A session and a podcast recording and I was there for all of it.

My connection to Kevin Smith is pretty straightforward: I’m a devout listener to his Fat Man on Batman podcast (go figure). But, that’s pretty much where my relationship with Smith ends.

The crown of my Thursdays.

The crown of my Thursdays.

Smith is also the mogul behind some dozen or more other podcasts, a film director and the author of various screenplays, comic books and an autobiography. I am largely unfamiliar with all of them.

But the over forty episodes of the Fat Man on Batman podcast have afforded me over fifty hours of the most in depth, fascinating Batman discussion I could ever imagine with everyone from Adam West to Kevin Conroy to Grant Morrison. For free. The least I could do was shell out some doe and check out one of Smith’s live appearances.

The rest of the audience was far less casual.

I’m about ten years too young for Clerks to resonate with me on a profound level. When the film debuted in 1993 I was three years old. My own youth was defined more so by Superbad than Jay and Silent Bob and my viewership leans more toward Blu-ray than VHS. But the exorbitant amount of people present with such an immense amount of passion for Smith’s work was a sight to behold, whether I could relate or not.

Fan after fan lined up to ask Smith questions and thank him for his work, some trembling and stammering as they stood before a man they loved. One particular gentleman thanked Smith for his films and the laughs they afforded him whilst overcoming cancer. More than one attendee spoke to Kevin Smith teary eyed.

And I, who just really, really like his Batman podcast, sat like an outside observer, blown away by the genuine affection between a humble entertainer and his fans.

And if I didn’t listen to Fat Man on Batman I would’ve had zero idea the event had ever transpired.

A majority of the people I told I was going to see Kevin Smith had little or no idea who I was talking about and while I was familiar with the man myself I had little to no idea of the extent of his prolificacy.

If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith you essentially have the ability to hear from him every single day through his impressive network of podcasts (SModCast Internet Radio), and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the people that were in attendance do just that. It’s a beautiful relationship between an entertainer and his fans and one that, to the best of my knowledge, is unrivaled.

Equally beautiful: a handful of folks I mentioned Kevin Smith to expressed distaste for his work. And they never have to hear or see Kevin Smith again.

Save the sporadic Comic Book Men promo on AMC, Kevin Smith doesn’t have to cater to the general public for a second. He knows exactly who his audience is and he caters to them near exclusively. You aren’t going to get promoted tweets about Smith’s next project on your Twitter feed because he already has millions of followers, millions of listeners and a vast collection of rabid, diehard fans.

Whether you like Kevin Smith the man or not, Kevin Smith the business model is the future: very specific programming for a very specific audience.

Why listen to the rock radio station for an hour to and from work each day because you like the one Nine Inch Nails song that pops up twice a month?

Why throw on TBS when you get home from work because reruns of the Big Bang Theory are the best white noise you can find at the end of the day?

Why subscribe to cable at all when you watch five out of 500 channels?

For fans of Kevin Smith a wealth of brand new material specifically for them is available at any time for free, and in return when Mr. Smith goes to Richmond the house is packed.

I do not know what snoogans means. But everyone else did.

I do not know what snoogans means. But everyone else did.

Was I a fan of Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie? Not really my thing. And I went in expecting as much because, as I’ve said, I’m just a guy who really, really likes Batman and wanted to show my support for a bishop of Gotham. But there was rarely a moment throughout the screening that the audience as a whole was laughing there collective ass of in earnest, because Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes independently tailored and produced a specific product for a specific audience that they know very, very well.

I still haven’t watched Clerks again. I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually, but at the end of the day it’s not on the top of my to-do list. But after spending time amongst the collective that is Kevin Smith and his loving, loyal fans, I’ll listen to Fat Man on Batman with a new appreciation. And I’ll probably go see Smith again the next time he comes to Richmond.