“As I got older I have to be more aware of what I say because I can get in trouble... I say the wrong thing to the wrong person there’s sexual harassment. Back in the day I wouldn’t care if I said F U to someone in front of a thirteen year old, but now I don’t want to influence them."
When Clerks first appeared in 1994, it's wise-arse attitude-laden convenience store shtick demonstrated a writer/ director with talent to burn. The script was witty and funny as hell, laden equally with insight and profanity. It was also the first appearance of Jay and Silent Bob, Bob being director Kevin Smith in a non-speaking role and Jay being Jason Mewes, a young obnoxious foul-mouthed dope dealer with a truly original turn of phrase. Whilst at times the acting in Clerks was questionable, Jay felt truly authentic, rarely had there been such a rough-hewn character on film. He felt real. “Back then it was exactly what I was like,” offers Mewes energetically, sounding like someone has just slipped him a cup of red cordial. “I mean Clerks was an exact replica of things I had said, done and acted like, minus the selling weed. I was very obnoxious and used to speak my mind and do what I wanted to do.” Jay and Silent Bob would go on to star in five more of Smith's features, with his character remaining pretty much the same, a sex-obsessed marijuana-fuelled slacker with a caustic mouth. In the intervening years however the gulf between the person and the character has widened. “As I got older I have to be more aware of what I say because I can get in trouble,” he laughs. “I say the wrong thing to the wrong person there's sexual harassment. Back in the day I wouldn't care if I said F U to someone in front of a thirteen year old, but now I don't want to influence them. I'm still obnoxious, but now I know when to say something and when not to. I'm seventy per cent Jason Mewes and thirty per cent that Jay.”
Mewes' troubled childhood and battle with drugs are well chronicled, primarily by him. In an effort to keep his friend sober, Smith set up a weekly podcast in which they discussed everything from Mewes' addiction issues to imaginary sex positions. As it's grown in popularity they've taken it on the road, and their live stand-up show in the UK, Tea Bagging, was filmed and is now out on DVD. What's fascinating is their ability to fill 2,000 seat venues by talking about their testicles.
“It's an interesting thing to me that people will sit down and watch our podcasts or get on iTunes and listen to this thing,” Mewes laughs without a hint of shame. He believes though that listeners are attracted to their honesty. “You're talking about drug abuse and all the stuff that's gone on throughout the years. People pull me aside and say, 'My friend is six months sober now and he listened to your podcast and it really inspired him.' Kevin talks about shooting movies, and people say, 'I just made my first independent movie because I listened to your podcast.' People say that they come because it's so honest, from two guys coming from pretty middle-class or in my case poor backgrounds. And then trying to push through some humour in there as well. Who doesn't want to hear about someone tea-bagging someone right?” he offers with a big throaty chuckle.
Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Tea Bagging in the UK Live Standup DVD released Wednesday 18 July (Madmen).