Jason Mewes has had an unexpected career—unexpected in that he certainly didn’t think growing up that he’d be acting and directing movies. Once viewed as just Kevin Smith’s slapstick sidekick, Mewes has grown into a career that is all his own. Since the original View Askewniverse titles, the New Jersey native has starred in roles that don’t involve weed-related hijinx, and he made his feature film directorial debut this year with Madness in the Method. Like his buddy Kevin Smith, he’s begun his own series of live storytelling shows A-Mewes-ing Stories in addition to touring with Smith for Jay & Bob Get Old—a live version of their popular podcast of the same name. Laughspin’s Billy Procida spoke with Mewes ahead of his headlining gig at the New York Comedy Festival on November 6 at Carolines in New York City. We discuss moving to Los Angeles, his original life plan, and some updates about the return of your favorite silly stoners in Jay and Silent Bob Get a Reboot.
You don’t miss New Jersey?
I don’t. You know why? The only thing I miss about Jersey, honestly, is now that I have a daughter I miss—like tonight is Halloween. Out here we have had to drive her to a different area in town from where we live [to go Trick or Treating]. I love, where I grew up, on Halloween the whole town you go house to house, ring the doorbell, and get candy. We’ve been in our house 4 or 5 years, not one person has rang our door for candy. It’s the little stuff like that I miss. I lived a block away from the beach. Now, if you want to go to the beach [in Los Angeles], you have to drive an hour with traffic and stuff. The water’s not the same either—I think I’ve been swimming twice since I lived here 13 years because the water’s cold even when it’s 100 degrees out because there’s no humidity. First world problem: if it’s 3:00 a.m., and I’m hungry, I can get delivery. When I go visit my family in Jersey, if I’m hungry, the latest you can get is maybe 1:00 a.m. Dominos. Just little things like that I’ve grown accustomed to out here. But the cultural [difference] I don’t care about. Either I gravitate towards or people gravitate towards me. It seems like everybody that I’m friends with here either moved here like Kevin [Smith] or I met them. My buddy D.K. is from New York; my other buddy grew up in Boston; another grew up in Rhode Island. It just seems like everyone I hang out with anyway is from the East Coast.
And even for me now, being sober: AA meetings. I went home to get sober because I had to turn myself in—I had a warrant, whatever. Where I grew up, it’s like the meetings were made up of like maybe two kids your age, 18-25, but the rest were old biker dudes—which isn’t a bad thing. But I’m just saying, here you go to a meeting, it’s people like 15 to fricking 30, 40 so there’s so many people you can relate with and talk to and hang out with and grab a network. At home, it’s a little odd to go up to four 70-year-old biker guys and go, “Hey want to hang out, grab a coffee?” So again, it’s little things like that that I really like about it out here. I really love it here.
How long have you been sober now?
8 years, 3 months, and 28 days.
And now you have the New York Comedy Festival coming up, you’re doing your show A-Mewes-ing Stories. How would you describe what it is you’re doing?
It’s more storytelling—it’s definitely not stand-up. There’s no set of jokes. I feel like it’s storytelling with punchlines at the end. You know, a lot of times I’ll open up with either something that happened to me on the way to the venue, whether it be at the airport and I walked in on someone spanking in the bathroom or someone got mad at me for farting on the airplane. Silly, goofy stuff. And when I tell the stories, I don’t just say, “On the way here, I farted on the plane and some dude got mad. The end.” I really try to paint a picture and make it entertaining. I’m getting better and better at it. I started, in the beginning, doing like 15 minutes of storytelling and then open it up for Q&A, but even my Q&As I don’t just answer. I’ve figured out the stories to attach to certain types of questions.
I remember getting on stage many, many years ago with Kevin for An Evening with Kevin Smith, and people would be like, “Hey Jay, what’s your favorite movie?” And I’d just be like, “My favorite movie is Mallrats.” Where now, I’ll get deeply into a story revolving around why Mallrats is my favorite movie and how I love it and a funny story attached to it. And then someone else will ask me how long I’ve been sober, and I’ll be able to talk about that and we can get a little darker and funnier. Because even though there’s been some rough situations with sobriety, there’s some funny stories now 8 years later I can tell and can laugh about. Like one time, I was at a club and shooting dope in the toilet, and some dude had to use the bathroom. He knew I was doing something funky in there, and he got pissed and he literally kicked the door open and it smacked me in the head. And I didn’t want to go out there to get water because he was banging on the door. So I didn’t have water—you need water to cook up the tar heroin, which is gross, but whatever—but I took toilet water since I couldn’t go out and use the faucet. So again, it’s really gross and disturbing, but at the same time, I can laugh about it now because it’s like, thank goodness I’m not in that space anymore. You know, stuff like that. It’s been a lot of fun, man.
I think I’ve done 20 Mewes-ing shows all over the different cities and stuff. My wife and Kevin are business partners—they run SModCo together. My wife is super smart and talented. And she’s the one who started throwing my name out to different venues we were booking Get Old for. And it was cool because a lot of the venues were open to, “Hey we’ve never seen Jay do his thing, and we love Jay and Bob Get Old. We’ll have him come here.” We started with 200- and 300-seaters, and now I just sold out an 800-seater I’m doing next month. And then, of course, I get to do Carolines, which I know is a big deal. Kevin was super excited for me because he did it last year.
So I’m super excited about it, man. I’m hoping I can entertain and keep people happy.
The Q&A seems to be where you and Kevin really thrive.
Yea. Kevin’s got it down to where he’ll literally do a two-hour show and answer three questions because his stories are so long. It’s good because he has a lot to say and it’s funny and the stories are great, and even when I’m on stage with him for it, I’ll sit there and get so involved in him telling his story that he’ll turn to me and go, “Jay, what do you think?” and I’m like, “What?” because I’m zoning in on listening to his funny story. But I also know that people get bummed, too, because they didn’t get to ask their question. So again, mine, I definitely have been able to stretch my show. I have stories behind everything, but I definitely get more questions in than he does. It’s been a good mix of both. The cool thing, too, is I’ve been lucky that no one has really complained. There was one couple or two couples in the 20 or 25 shows I’ve done that went, “Hey. We were on our anniversary, and we were passing the comedy club. We stepped in to see a comedy show. This isn’t what we expected. This was interesting.” It wasn’t a plus, but it wasn’t a minus. But again, it’s been a positive experience so far. After I usually do meet-and-greets and take photos and sign stuff and it’s great. Also, a lot of the venues will book a 10-minute opener and a 20-minute feature, and then I’ll do an hour/hour-and-a-half. So even if people are like, “I’m excited to see Jay, but we wanted to see stand-up,” they’ll still get to see stand-up.
Now, what’s going on with Jay and Silent Bob Get a Reboot?
We were supposed to shoot Clerks 3. We literally were where we are now [on Reboot] where we had the money. We were looking at a place. If all goes as planned, we’re supposed to start pre-production January, start shooting in February in New Orleans. We’re actually looking at places to stay right now. My wife is not only business partners with Kevin on SModCo, but she also produced his last two movies Tusk and Yoga Hosiers. She’ll be producing this movie. So again, we get to go out and bring our kid and go to New Orleans together for two months or more.
But she’s gotta do all this hard work and you get to just show up and go, ‘Snootchie bootchies!’
Exactly! We’re actually looking for a place to stay right now. They’ve made the offers to the actors. And we were this far with Clerks 3, and when they made the offer—Kevin and I don’t have to worry about this [on Reboot] because we definitely want to do the movie—but they made the offer to Jeff Anderson, and he didn’t want to do it. We still don’t know the exact reason. I would say it was money, but it wasn’t, because, at one point, everyone was so disappointed everyone started throwing—like Brian O’Halloran, me, Kevin—everyone started being like, “Hey, we’ll give you 30% of whatever we’re getting paid.” By the end, I know with the combination of everyone’s [chipping in their] own pay, he must have been offered at least…I’m just saying, it must not have been that. So, I still don’t know what happened; I don’t know why. But we literally were as far as making offers, looking for a place to stay—all that. Then we got a phone call and all of a sudden like, “Hey, it’s not going to happen.” So it was such a bummer.
Then we were going to do Mallrats 2. Kevin wrote [a sequel to] Mallrats. We started making plans. We got people going, “Hey, we got the money.” But then Universal owns the rights, and Universal’s like, “We’ve never given a title back to anybody. We don’t’ want to make the movie.” That’s what Universal said. So we went, “Okay, you don’t have to make it. Can we make it? We have the money. We have all the resources we need.” And they were like, “No. We’ve never given a title we own back to somebody.” So they wouldn’t let us make it. So we had to pass on that.
So now, hopefully, all is going as planned. We have the money. We have location. We have the offers out to people. Kevin and I went to the doctor cuz, you know, you have to get insured and bonded and stuff. We’re in motion to start pre-production January. February we start shooting. So as long as everything stays on track, yes, Jay and Silent Bob reboot will be made and I’m very excited because I definitely would love to do one more Jay and Bob movie before, you know, we get super old and too old to hang out with apes and swing from grappling hooks and all that good stuff. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. The script’s super funny and it’ll be a lot of fun. And Kevin throws out all new humor with what’s going on today like with social media and this and that. I’m excited.
Do you think your acting has improved when you watch the movies later on?
I don’t like watching myself. I never watch the movies a bunch.
I directed my own movie, and I just had a screening of it, and it was the first time I watched it—besides a little editing here and there that I’ve done and watching it to give notes—but never really sat down and watched it from beginning to end once it was complete until recently. And even though I directed it and I want to sit there, I’m also acting in it. And I’m in it so much. Again, I’m happy with what turned out, but I wish when we decided to make our movie that I wasn’t the main character. I wish I had casted someone else like Kevin did in Clerks—he was supposed to play Randall. I wish I had taken that advice, because—again, I liked it, and I liked the character—I’d get to set and I’d set up the shot; and then I’d have to go get make-up, wardrobe on for the character; and memorize my lines and we’d shoot a couple scenes, and I’d watch playback; and I didn’t really get to focus. Now that it’s done, same thing: I want to sit up there and watch the movie as a director, but I’m also going, “Ah! I hate watching myself. I wish I hadn’t done that. I should have done that better.” But again, I’m happy that someone gave me the opportunity.
I did a movie in London called Devil’s Tower, and it was this other producer-director. And when we were done—I did like three days on it—I was sitting with the producer and the co-writer and they were like, “Hey man, I like your stuff. What else have you wanted to do?” And I was telling him how people in the business only ask me to be the slapstick guy or the funny guy or the drug dealer or something. I really wish I could play a Hannibal Lector-type character, something a little more serious or sinister, or a cop even. Two months later, he sent me a script [for Madness in the Method] and said, “Hey, here’s an idea I have.” I liked it, but then I was like, “What about this instead of that? And it’s me being myself, but it’s about how I want to play these serious characters, but I’m never taken seriously. Then I wind up killing someone by mistake and it starts to snowball and I really like it.” We went back and forth with the ideas and he says, “I think I can get the money.” I told him, “Yeah, right,” because I’ve gotten told that before. Three months later, he says, “Bro, I literally got the money, and they want you to direct it and play in it.” So I’m happy the investors and my buddy Dom got me the opportunity to direct it because it can be hard when you haven’t directed something, for people to trust you to do it. I had one other opportunity a long time ago. Some dude had, like, a $1 million budget. And it was a good script. He said, “I want you to direct it.” He didn’t even want me to act in it. He just wanted me to be the director, but then it fell apart. It didn’t have to do with me—he had this location that a lot of the budget would have taken place in Vegas, where they were gonna have an old hotel that was gonna be torn down. But they were going to use it for the shooting, production, and all this stuff. They had it blocked out at a certain time, and then I guess the hotel was like, “We need it for this, this, and this,” and things sort of just fell apart. But again, I’m happy with the movie.
With Jay and Silent Bob Get a Reboot, what’s different and what’s the same with the Jay character?
It’s a more mature Jay, I think. Kevin wrote it to be. There’s still the goofy, slapsticky Jay, but just a little more mature. The both of them are more mature. I don’t know how much I can give away, but I’ll leave it at that. Definitely a more mature Jay and Silent Bob.
Back in ’93, was this even a pipe dream? What was your plan back then?
Honestly, I was roofing at the time. Kevin said, “Hey, I wrote a script and I based the character on you,” and I was like, “Yeah, sure. Whatever.” Because again, it’s not like now. My buddy from high school just came over the other day. He happened to be in tow, and he works for Red now. And Red is coming out with a phone. It’s going to have attachments so you can shoot 6K on your phone. So my point is, when people say they’re making movies or web series and that—I mean, there are kids out there like Ryan’s Toy Review, they made $11 million last year for opening toys and such—so my point is when people say, “Hey, I”m going to make a movie,” you’re like, “Oh cool! What is it about? When is it? What’re you doing?” Back then, it wasn’t really the case. People in my town weren’t like, “Hey I’m making movies,” or, “I’m making YouTube videos,” or anything. So when Kevin said, “I’m making a movie,” I’m like, ‘Yeah, cool.” And he literally gave me the script and I said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I can do this,” and he said, “Dude, it’s you. You say that shit all the time.”
So I was roofing at the time. I worked all day; at nighttime, we’d shoot. And even when the movie was done, we got through it, I went back to work and Kevin went to Sundance Film Festival. I didn’t really get the process. We watched the movie when it was edited and complete in the video store on the little Avid Steenbeck. And I thought that was it. Then he said, “Hey, the movie got bought.” And then he got a three-picture deal. So no, I didn’t plan on doing movies. Even after Clerks I didn’t plan on it. It really wasn’t until after Mallrats, because it was after Mallrats I met a guy named Malcolm Ingram on the set who worked for Film Thread who was doing a piece for the magazine on Mallrats and Kevin Smith. He was doing a movie called Drawing Flies and, all of a sudden, now I went straight to Drawing Flies. Now I’ve done three movies and I thought, “Wow, maybe this is something I could do.” Again, after Clerks, I didn’t get paid. Mallrats we got paid, but we got scale. So after taxes and stuff, you get like eight grand. And like, it’s funny, after Mallrats came out people were like, “Dude, how many houses did you buy, bro?” I’m like, “I made eight grand. It’s gone.”
My plan before that, honestly, was I remember roofing. I made pretty decent money roofing—I made $400-$500 a week cash. I remember my foreman was making about $1,000-$1,300 a week cash and that was so much money to me at the time. That’s almost five grand a month cash and I was like, “Holy crap. I want to be a foreman.” Then we’d go to the boss’s house who owned the company once in a while to pick up supplies, and he had a really nice house in New Jersey. He had a couple nice cars. So I was like, “Man, I want to own my own roofing business.” So honestly, at the age of 17 to like 20, my goal was to one day be a foreman and then, possibly, own my own roofing business. That’s what I saw my life being.
And how different life would have been. Check out Jason Mewes’s A-Mewesing Stories today, November 6, at Carolines on Broadway as part of the New York Comedy Festival. Tickets are available on the Carolines website.