Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg Are Geeking Out

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For whatever reason, at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I kept crossing paths with Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg. I ran into Greg at an after-party sponsored by Scholastic (since he has a new graphic novel out with them). The two appeared together at Kevin’s Hall H panel on Saturday night (where Kevin told an amazing story about his experience following the Star Wars panel at last year’s show). And they were both promoting–and filming!–their new show on AMC called Geeking Out.

In a nutshell, Geeking Out takes a timely look at pop culture through a fanboy lens and features talk, celebrity interviews, and the kind of off-the-cuff segments and humor you probably associate with Kevin Smith. Basically, Kevin and Greg take advantage of their impressive contact lists and access to give viewers a “behind the scenes” look at unique events, and they strive to have honest, unfiltered conversations with their guests.

The first episode, which aired a couple weeks ago immediately following SDCC, featured some footage from the Star Trek Beyond premiere and impromptu conversations they recorded at the con. The show returns to AMC on Sunday, August 14 at 11 pm ET/PT with all-new episodes.

In the second episode, the guys chat with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk about Firefly and Con Man, get some behind-the-scenes scoop on the next installments of Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars, and visit J.J. Abrams on the Universal Studios backlot to talk about his new HBO series Westworld.

The show definitely shows some real promise, but I have to say, sitting in the Geeking Out press conference and listening to Kevin Smith made me a fan all over again. I will admit that I haven’t kept up with most of his recent films, but it’s hard to deny that the guy is an incredible storyteller. That story he told in Hall H about losing the entire audience last year? It took an hour and a half and covered a span of 22 years. And when the punchline finally came, it was obvious why he’s been so successful in his career.

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But in the press conference, I asked Kevin if he was happy with the current state of pop culture. He basically built his career on the back of “geek culture,” which was only found in the margins of society when we were growing up. Now that it’s become near universally accepted, can we finally admit that geek culture has become mainstream? And where do we go from here?

Now, if you know anything about Kevin Smith, you won’t be surprised to hear that his answer took about 15 minutes. But I think it’s absolutely worth repeating (minus a few expletives and distractions)…

“There was a time when this wasn’t the dominant culture, and now it is. There was a time when I had to explain to people who Stan Lee was, and now my mom looks for Stan’s cameos in the movies. The Marvel movies alone have taught people who weren’t part of comic book culture to be comic book readers, to expect the next installment, and to know that these things are connected–and not necessarily sequels. That’s something we did in youth for fun because we loved it.

“Now they’ve taken that entertainment to a new medium but turned everybody into who we used to be. I was never one of those cats who was like, ‘F you, I liked it before it was cool.’ The more the merrier, man. The only way we were ever going to push through was with dominant numbers. It couldn’t just be ‘this is for us and not for you.’ It’s inclusive; it’s for everybody.

“You walk out onto the floor [of San Diego Comic-Con] and you see all genders,  all races, all colors. That’s because everybody dreams. Everybody has fantasies. And this genre? This world of pop culture? It’s nothing but the fuel of fantasy: the dream of being something else, something other, something better.

“So now that everybody feels that way? I like to look at sports because when I was growing up, sports was the dominant pastime in America, and kids would grow up wanting to be a baseball player or football player. And that’s all predicated on nothingness, right? I have nothing but respect for sports, but it’s a game. At the end of the day, whoever wins or loses doesn’t change the world one iota. It’s just something to do while you’re waiting for death. That’s what movies are. The same thing–just a pastime.

“But at the same time, for anybody who loves those things–movies, sports, or TV–we know it’s much more than that. It’s a religion. You know that someone doing something with more passion than you’ve ever done in your life, even if it’s something insignificant like writing a comic book or creating a cartoon or scoring a goal in hockey… if you do it like you’re trying to save the galaxy, that’s an enriching tale that invites people in. Suddenly there’s a story being told. In our medium, it’s literally a story–turning pages. In sports, there’s the idea behind the action: how did this kid from nowhere get there?

“I always wondered why the stuff I liked was treated as seriously. Why aren’t there t-shirts and hats for the things I like? Now there are. We live in a world where it’s shoulder to shoulder. Imagine trying to remake Revenge of the Nerds today. It wouldn’t even make sense! There’s no such thing as the sports bully picking on the nerd. Now it’s vice versa. The nerd is a billionaire, and the sports guy works for him on the team that the nerd owns. So everything’s changed dramatically.

“Is there a next mission? I think the next mission is this, honestly. It’s gonna sound weird for a middle-aged white man to talk about diversity, but when I was a kid, I wanted to see my world, and I didn’t. So in my movies, I picked at my world, which is [pop culture]. Now everybody sees my world. So I don’t thirst for that anymore. Now it’s about diversity.

“I got a kid of my own, and she’s 17. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. In my case, I saw Richard Linklater do it first. He made a movie, and I wanted to try that. You gotta see it to be it. I saw a white guy do it. My kid can’t see a bunch of white guys do it and think that anything’s possible. The lesson there is ‘anything’s possible if you’re a white guy.’ It’s important to bring in other people.

“So that’s the next mission–bringing everyone together. Our community tends to be divisive because we’re very opinionated, and sometimes it gets into gender wars and other battles. You see hostility, and all I can think is, ‘You f@$*ers! We fought so hard to not be The Other and be accepted for all of this, and now we want to divide within? It makes no sense! Now that we’re accepted, why would you fight about some of this stuff? Why fight about the new Ghostbusters movie? Wait two minutes–there’ll be another guy Ghostbusters movie. They don’t even wait ten years to revamp things anymore!

“So I would like to see more inclusion, more diversity, and more people accepting of diversity. It’s one thing to say, ‘Yeah, I like diversity.’ Then accept that f-ing diversity! Champion it! My whole life, a lot of people who weren’t like me–a white male–were forced to read stories about white males going to save the world over and over again. It’s my time to kick back and let someone else enjoy those stories. People have heard enough from Kevin Smith. It’s time to hear from other people whose stories have never been told. That’s where we need to go; that’s the next level.”

Yeah, it’s safe to say I’ll be watching the show and hoping that this isn’t just lip service. Geeking Out is an incredible outlet for him to showcase the diversity he wants to celebrate. Make it happen, Kevin!

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