Ignore the “life advice from a fat, lazy slob who did good” subtitle. Tough Shit isn’t devoid of “life advice.” Kevin Smith isn’t the type to mislead, which means it is there, albeit rather basic. He himself says early on, though, that this won’t be one of those inspirational life stories filled with profundities galore. The subtitle might even have been forced upon him to make the book sound more palatable thanTough Shit would have by its lonesome. It would make a certain amount of sense, given where he decided to place it on the cover, that being his forehead. However that addendum came to pass, it’s apparent from the start that there’s going to be more in the way of “shit” than “advice,” as Smith is unabashed about just how vulgar he’s being.
Unabashed is an apt description for Tough Shit as a whole. Mixed in with the stories about how he “did good” are ones about, say, what sex with his wife is like, sparing no details, even those that paint himself in an unflattering light. It’s how forthcoming he was about everything, good or bad, that won me over in spite of my initial misgivings about just how obscene he was allowing himself to get. In a memoir from the writer of such movies as Clerks II, wherein discussions are had about the viability of going “ass to mouth,” it seems absurd that I was shocked by a wee bit of questionable talk, but I was. I’m aware that’s sort of his whole shtick, and yet it seemed he was overdoing it, tossing in extended, detailed discussions of his path from sperm to birth. In other words, it was a lot to process so soon. It would be similar to if he’d kickstarted Clerks II with the donkey show, or its predecessor with Caitlin bonking (spoiler redacted).
Smith never exactly starts out in the Brady Bunch mode either, but I was expecting a little more lead-in. Once I re-acclimated to his style of storytelling, however, I was able to find amusement in his unchecked honesty. Arguably, he’s better at shooting the shit, with plenty of actual “shits” involved, than he’s ever been as a director. I know I’d rather hear him talk about the making of some of his movies than sit down and watch them, Cop Out in particular. Given what we’re told of his experience with Bruce Willis on the set of the movie, I get the sense he’d be just as receptive to the idea of watching it as I am, not wanting to relive the time when one of his idols was revealed to be a tremendous douchecanoe in person. He refers to himself as the “fat, lazy slob,” but that could just as easily be used to refer to Willis as seen through Smith’s eyes during the filming of Cop Out. Except swap out “fat” with “old.” Willis has packed on a few extra pounds in recent years, but he’s not “fat” quite yet.
Smith, on the other hand, is undeniably fat. No one, not him, and especially not Southwest Airlines, will dispute that. Though he is adamant to point out that he is not too fat to fly. It’s in his account of the Southwest Airlines incident that the shit really gets tough, even moreso than on the set of Cop Out. The whole thing, from the incident itself to the countless articles it inspired, was one big case of fat shaming, and anyone who sees otherwise, or doesn’t have one iota of sympathy for him after reading his side of it all is not someone I’m interested in getting to know. Smith, like most who are overweight, is fully aware of how fat he is, and is probably his own biggest (pun not intended) critic in that regard. Yet, there are degrees of fat, and he is also hyper-cognizant of where he falls on that particular continuum, just as I was before I lost weight. “I may be fat, but at least I’m not so fat that I can no longer see my penis,” I used to tell myself in the shower, much like how Smith tells readers he’s fat, but not so fat he can no longer put the arm rests down and is a danger to his fellow passengers on a flight.
That being said, Tough Shit wasn’t written with the sole intent of building himself up by revealing what really happened with Southwest Airlines, all that went into the failure of Cop Out, etc. In Tough Shit, Smith aims to show readers just how ordinary this “fat, lazy slob” is that “did good,” and how that “good” wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, yet how it’s still far more than enough for him. He got to meet and work with two of his idols, Willis and George Carlin, though the former obviously wasn’t as much of a pleasure as the latter. He met and fell in love with a woman he would’ve thought unattainable and remains starstruck by her until this day. He got the approval of another of his idols, Quentin Tarantino, who liked Red State enough to watch it twice in the span of 24 hours. He’s never going to be mentioned in the same breath as Tarantino, but he doesn’t need to be. In his eyes, he did “good.” In mine, he did great. Wherever his life and career take him from here on in, he has nothing left to prove to me, much as he has nothing left to prove to himself. Criticize him all you want. Just first read this. Maybe then you’ll at least gain a newfound respect for the man you’re so quick to bash. I did, and I already respected the shit out of him, so give it, and him, a shot.