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Kevin Smith opens up about his mental health recovery and ‘other guy’ comedy persona

Smith’s Silent but Deadly comedy special is streaming at Peacock now.

By Benjamin Bullard
Kevin Smith on Why Hating Things is Dumb

Kevin Smith is loved by fans for his comically affable, disarmingly candid persona. The Clerks star and creator (and perennial comic book nerd) has always exerted that kind of appeal: blunt, honestly funny, and gleefully geeky. His public face is among the most fan-accessible in all of entertainment.

But after suffering a 2018 heart attack only hours after recording his Silent But Deadly stand-up comedy special (watch it now on Peacock), the actor, comedian, and occasional sci-fi director began grappling with deep-seated mental issues, lingering ghosts of childhood trauma and abuse that by 2022 had ushered him toward “a weird, dark place,” as he recently confided to People.

RELATED: Kevin Smith tell us why genre fans should be right at home watching 'Clerks III'

The bubbly stage face that’s endeared Smith to fans through quirky film comedies, at comic book conventions, and via authentically relatable stand-up shows, has long served as an emotional shield, one Smith says has buffered him against an inevitable grown-up confrontation of those hard-to-address mental health challenges. It’s a defense that dates back to his youngest years. Smith told People he was sexually bullied and abused by an older child when he was only 6. By age 9, he was shaken when a 4th grade teacher reportedly ridiculed the size of his “gut” in front of other students.

Left unaddressed, that kind of trauma endured into adulthood, with Smith’s familiar funny face masking hidden anguish. “I felt disgusting, like I didn't matter. That's when 'the other guy' started to appear,” he said of his 4th grade ordeal. “I decided to be entertaining and make people love me before they noticed I was fat."

By the time his Silent Bob character in Clerks (1994) broke his celebrity wide open, Smith added, “I was already a self-loathing mess. ‘The other guy’ became my favorite piece of clothing to wear. I'd just let him take over.”

Now on the other side of a reported month-long stint at the Sierra Tucson addiction and behavioral health treatment center in Arizona, Smith has shared that his darkest moments — coming just before his voluntary check-in last year — marked a “complete break from reality” for the 52 year-old actor. “At that moment, I wouldn't have been averse to not being around any longer. I called a friend and said, ‘I'm in a weird, dark place. I need to go somewhere and get help.’”

Trauma is relative to each sufferer, and Smith confessed it took a while for him to accept that an adored celebrity had any business seeking help among a pool of mental health patients who came to the center to get treatment for their own serious issues.

“In the beginning, it was tough to share when somebody's talking about watching their friend get killed and I'm like, ‘Well, my fourth-grade teacher told me I was fat,’” he said. ”But I learned that there's no differentiation [between levels of trauma] to the human nervous system. Internally, trauma is trauma.”

That’s a different kind of candor than fans have come to expect from Smith, though he’s optimistic that discussing his mental health publicly — while frightening — can hopefully encourage others to take action if they find themselves in need. “I'm terrified to see everyone's reaction to [all of this],” he said. “But I know there's somebody out there who doesn't know this stuff — like I didn’t — who could get something out of this.”

Though he says he’s dialing back his workload (and has stopped smoking weed), Smith most recently has been attached to a string of potential future films, including a reported Mallrats sequel titled Twilight of the Mallrats, as well as The 4:40 Movie, described last year by MovieWeb as “a new original product.”

Fans are also dialed in for the next development news on Moose Jaws, Smith’s intended final film in the True North movie trilogy first kicked off by horror-comedy Tusk (2014). In the same spirit as Tusk’s body-horror vibes, it’s an idea borrowed from a certain famous movie shark — but with a Kevin Smith twist. “Moose Jaws,” he joked to a GalaxyCon crowd last year (via MovieWeb), “is like Jaws but with a Moose instead of a shark.”

Catch Smith hilariously oversharing highlights of his comedy career in Kevin Smith: Silent but Deadly, streaming now on Peacock.