The Master of His Domain

Article excerpt

Byline: Ari Karpel

Reality shows, comedy films, self-help books--is there anything Kevin Smith can't do?

Getting kicked off an airplane for being too fat turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Kevin Smith.

At first, of course, he was humiliated. "It felt like they stripped me of all my accomplishments by reducing me to 'fat guy in a little chair on a plane,'?" says the indie-film director and comedian, known for such mid-'90s slacker classics as Clerks and Chasing Amy. He figured he had two options: "Crumble, wither, die, and go away. Or fucking rise, man. Rise above it."

And rise he has.

Ever since Smith was famously ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight in February 2010, he has taken back the power he lost that day and used it as fuel for an extraordinary career reinvention. "That moment was a kind of leap-off moment," he says. "That was where things really started to drastically change."

No longer willing to fly, Smith parked himself at the "SModcastle," a 50-seat theater in Hollywood where he turned his already-popular podcasts (or, as he calls them, SModcasts) into a live experience and became one of the first people to make money off the burgeoning medium.

Long disillusioned by the movie business, he thumbed his nose at the Hollywood industrial complex by riding a bus cross-country and selling out venues like Radio City Music Hall in an oddball self-distribution plan for his horror film, Red State.

This week Smith's self-deprecating humor and geek appeal return to TV with a comedy special called Kevin Smith Burn in Hell, airing on EPIX. And on Feb. 12, AMC will debut Comic Book Men, a reality TV series set in the Red Bank, N.J., comic-book store Smith has owned since 1997. The show finds Smith's employees--two of whom were real-life models for characters in Clerks--assessing the value of collectibles that customers bring in, like vintage Bionic Man dolls. That's intercut with podcasting sessions where Smith and his pals posit fanboy inquiries like "What superpower would you choose to have?" Think of it as Pawn Stars meets The Big Bang Theory with a splash of Jersey Shore (minus the abs).

And in perhaps Smith's most unlikely move yet, his first self-help book will hit shelves in March. Its title, like much of Smith's vocabulary, includes a word traditionally unfit for a family newsmagazine. And yet every bit of Tough Sh*t: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good stands apart from other celebrity books. …