We all came from balls.
Kevin Smith begins his comedy memoir Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good with a deep look at where we come from. Not in a spiritual or metaphysical way, but in a “you were produced in a pair of balls” way. As Smith tells it, you have already achieved your biggest accomplishment at conception.
Yeah, it’s crude, especially when you realize that Kevin Smith spent way too much time thinking about his father’s testicles, but it’s also fitting. Smith doesn’t believe in magical muse fairies or some mystical law of attraction; he believes in hard work. Whether it comes from the balls or the brain.
That might be Smith’s first point in Tough Shit, but there’s more. Smith learns his biggest life lesson from his father as he recounts his father’s fatal heart attack with disturbing clarity. His mantra, repeated throughout the book, is, “Dad died screaming.” Smith realizes that, no matter how you live your life, you’re still going to die, and not always peacefully.
If you’re going to die screaming, you might as well put the balls to the wall and live the best life you can.
The book’s not all balls and parents, though. It’s a nearly chronological look at Smith’s life as a filmmaker, with a few detours mixed in. It begins with his childhood; his dad taking him to movies every weekend as he slowly learns the difference between “movies” and “films”. After teenage years filled with art house films seen in indie New York theatres, Smith made Clerks and the rest is history.
The middle of the book revolves around his time with Miramax and The Weinstein Company. Smith explains, in detail, his rise with the company and his later falling-out with the Weinstein brothers. He rages on his time working with a less-than-cooperative Bruce Willis on Cop Out. Later, he explains how he made Red State by cobbling together backers for the project and then staging a mock-auction at Sundance, suffering immense media backlash for his decision.
Already amped-up from his hate-on for the media, Smith changes gears to talk about the “too fat to fly” incident. He goes into minute detail describing the entire ordeal, including the aftermath, where the media gangs up for some good ol’ fashioned fatty shaming. It’s hard to listen to him rant about small, independent news and review sites (he probably wouldn’t be a big PoP! fan), but he’s got a point: the media loves to kick a man when he’s down.
The last chapter is dedicated to his wife. While it starts off innocently enough, it quickly gets graphic. If you don’t want to hear a detailed account of Kevin Smith’s sex life (it gets squicky quickly), you may want to skip this chapter.
Finally, as a epilogue, Smith brings it back to balls again by introducing the product of his balls, his daughter, Harley Quinn. He ends the book with an essay she wrote about him, which she reads in the audio book version. It’s a sweet ending to a book that otherwise revels in vulgarity and raunchiness.
I listened to the audio book instead of reading the print copy. Anytime you can hear a book read by the author, you definitely should. Especially how Smith’s tirades come alive in your ears. Even his tangent at the beginning of the where he’s joking with the crew and talks about recording in the comfort of his own home (which he then warns against at the end of the reading). He also adds in little asides that aren’t in the text version. If you listen to the very end, his wife drops in with, “Everybody, get the f*ck out of my living room!”
Although written as a memoir, Kevin Smith’s Tough Sh*t… is practically a self-help book for creative types. It all distills down to using your unique talents before you die screaming, and according to Smith, a self-proclaimed “ talent-less hack”, it’s not all that hard.