In one of several tweets Kevin Smith posted hours before his Wednesday appearance at the University at Buffalo, the filmmaker issued one conversational barrier for the evening: "BUFFALO! Now that the election is behind us, let's not talk about it at all."
That was no problem for the crowd at the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts. Smith's loyal fans had plenty of other pressing issues in mind – hockey, comic books, "Star Wars," sex toys. Smith happily engaged all of these topics, and many more, in a three-hour Q&A that ended only when a staff member told him that his time was up.
After Smith strolled on stage, wearing shorts and his signature oversized hockey jersey, he said he would talk for "three hours minimum," and turned the rest of the night to his fans.
"This night's all about what you want to hear," he said. "I can't promise illuminating answers, but I can promise long ones."
Although Smith, 42, is best known as the creator of cult comedies like "Clerks" and "Dogma," his epic Q&A's are legendary in their own right. Fans lined up at microphones early to chat with him; by the end of the night, most of them hadn't budged. Smith spent more than 25 minutes responding to the first question – a vague inquiry about his experience with Internet trolling – and in the process, he touched on childhood memories, family history and his fears of death. By the end of the first hour, he was just beginning to answer his third question.
Fortunately, though, these long answers were illuminating, and hilarious, as would be expected. These days, Smith – who prides himself on being a "functional stoner" – isn't so much a raconteur as a gifted rambler. Even if he didn't get to most of his fans' questions, his free-flowing monologues covered more ground than anyone could have anticipated.
Smith told stories of his work with Ben Affleck and George Carlin. He exhaustively detailed his sex life, his struggles with his weight and the death of his father. He talked about the script for "Hit Somebody," his upcoming hockey film, which he said is currently a 240-page "magnum opus."
He said that movie will be his last, because he's grown frustrated with working in film. "Film is the only medium where I have to say things like: ‘I want to express myself, give me $20 million and Ben Affleck,' " he said.
Talking candidly with fans is now his preferred form of expression.
"The more I put out there, the less there is for me to hide," he said.
He seemed guarded about only one topic. Someone asked about his feud with Bruce Willis, who Smith directed in his 2010 film "Cop Out" and swore to never work with again. In previous Q&A's, Smith has told famous stories about his confrontations with Prince and Tim Burton, and he's gone public about his struggles with Willis, too.
But Smith seemed reluctant to tell this story. He confessed that Willis was the first person in film that he "hated working with," and then seemed ready to drop the conversation after only a few minutes.
"I'm over it," he said, shrugging. He reassured his fans: "There'll be a time to talk about it one day."
Then he spent the next 20 minutes talking about fights they had on set.
When: Wednesday evening? in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts