Smith got his start by making Clerks, a black and white film shot on location in the scenic convenience store where he worked at the time and financed by maxing out his credit cards; it starred various lifelong friends and local amateur actors. Released in 1994, Clerks became an instant cult favorite and one of the pioneers of the independent genre. Smith is a proud native of New Jersey and
all most of his films take place in the state.
As mentioned, Smith often casts his friends in his movies, notably childhood friends Jason "Jay" Mewes and Jeff "Randall Graves" Anderson. Smith also jump started the careers of two of his friends, Jason Lee (who before Mallrats was one of the most well known professional skateboarders in the country) and Ben Affleck by casting them in major roles in Mallrats and Chasing Amy before they both went off to fame and fortune (both would appear in all of Smith's other Askewniverse movies).
He married journalist Jennifer Schwalbach in 1999. They have one daughter, Harley Quinn Smith (yes, named after the Batman the Animated Series character; he is close friends with writer Paul Dini.)
Smith is best known for the six-film New Jersey Trilogy set in The View Askewniverse; his non-Askewniverse productions Jersey Girl and Zack and Miri Make a Porno have not been as successful (or at least no more successful). As a result, he tends to go back to the Askewniverse trough, often self-aware of its approaching Franchise Zombie status.
Noted for holding detailed audience Q&A sessions. Initially attached to his movies, he discovered that people would pay to come to an auditorium and listen to him tell stories and answer audience questions without any context. Hence, An Evening with Kevin Smith led to sequels An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder, Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith: Too Fat for 40 and Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell.
He has also become a prolific podcaster, creating the weekly series Smodcast with longtime partner producer Scott Mosier. This expanded into a network of podcasts under the SModcast Network banner, including Tell 'Em Steve-Dave (with Smith's close friends Bryan Johnson, Walt Flanagan, and Brian Quinn), Jay and Silent Bob Get Old (Smith and Jason Mewes), Plus One (Smith and his wife Jennifer Schwalbach-Smith), Blow Hard (indie filmmaker Malcolm Ingram, with Smith occasionally co-hosting), and Hollywood Babble-On (Smith and actor Ralph Garman).
He is well known for being extremely approachable and friendly towards his fans (often he will take time after his appearances at comic book conventions and the like to sign autographs and chat with fans for multiple hours) and was one of the first film directors to have a major internet presence, going all the way back to the mid-90's. Currently, he can easily be found on either his twitter page or his official message board (which his wife and friends also frequently post on) or his internet radio station.
- Chasing Amy
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
- Jersey Girl - notable for being his first non-Askewniverse feature.
- Clerks II
- Zack and Miri Make a Porno
- Cop Out - out in 2010; his first film to be directed but not written by him.
- Red State - a Horror film whose villain is based on Fred Phelps. Was on the back burner for several years before being filmed in October 2010. Smith will be distributing the film himself, rather than spending more on marketing the film than he did actually making it.
- Hit Somebody - A film about hockey, based on a song by Warren Zevon and co-written by Tuesdays With Morrie author Mitch Albom. At Sundance 2011, he announced that it will be his last movie as a writer/director, effectively killing another planned film, Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers, unless another director feels like making it.
- Clerks the Animated Series - loosely based on the first Clerks, a Too Good to Last series with a comfortable DVD following.
- An Evening with Kevin Smith, volumes 1, 2, and 3; as well as the specials for the pay-cable channel Epix, Kevin Smith: Too Fat for 40 and Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell - Smith proves himself to be extremely entertaining in his off-the-cuff question and answer sessions at various college campuses and concert venues. Sometimes joined by his heterosexual life partner, Jason Mewes.
- Daredevil: Guardian Devil - a comic run that in some ways re-launched the franchise with a more adult focus on the character's Catholic faith; especially notable for the significant death of an otherwise minor villain. Also notable in some circles for a Stuffed in The Fridge moment.
- Green Arrow - Where he brought the Emerald Archer back to life.
- A rather poorly-received Batman miniseries, Widening Gyre, especially when discussing a certain moment in Batman: Year One.
- Directed the Reaper TV pilot.
- A weekly podcast with friend Scott Mosier, SModcast, which eventually grew into a 24 hour web radio network called SModcast Internet Radio that has shows with Smith and his wife, Smith and Jason Mewes, and others. You can check it out here.
- Directed and starred in two episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation, bringing along Jason Mewes and Alanis Morrisette for the ride. He took up the gig because he was a huge fan of Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High during their runs on PBS, and had a Perverse Sexual Lust for Caitlin Ryan.
- Comic Book Men which he's described as like Pawn Stars, but for nerds.
- Played a pathologist/lab tech in the Daredevil film.
- Warlock in Live Free or Die Hard.
- A gas station pimp in Fanboys
- A blink and you'll miss it witness on Law and Order
- A convenience store clerk in Veronica Mars
Most of Smith's uses of tropes can be found on The View Askewniverse page, but some of his trope use is broader than that. They are:
- Author Filibuster - As his spoken word videos suggest, often Smith's personal rants about various subjects end up in his films.
- Christianity Is Catholic - Whenever Smith deals with faith, it's inevitably the faith that he grew up with and says that he currently adheres to, Catholicism. Somewhat ironic, in that one of the interest groups most opposed to him is The Catholic League, which started opposing him at first due to his amusing take on the fallibility of mortal religion while simultaniously exalting divine infallibility in Dogma. Other religions are not dealt with extensively, and it's a loophole in Catholic doctrine that ends up endangering the entire universe in the aforementioned film. He has promised, however, to avert this trope if he ever makes a Dogma II.
- Cluster F-Bomb - He's such an abuser, his first film was originally rated NC-17 based on language alone.
- Creator Backlash - Mocked and simulated; when a group of people announced they were going to picket his film Dogma at a theater near where he lives, Smith himself showed up and picketed the film too with a "Dogma is dogshit" sign. He ends up being filmed by a news crew as a protester, and the reporter recognized him.
- Executive Meddling - His story of his time as a writer for Superman Lives and the insane requests of Jon Peters.
- Played straight and then subverted with Cop Out: It was originally entitled A Couple of Dicks, but the MPAA weren't cool with that. They were using A Couple of Cops as a placeholder, and one of the execs suggested that they use that. Smith said that it was a "cop out" to use that title, so the executive suggested that they use that. Smith thought this was brilliant, admitted that the executives were much smarter than he is, and then ran with that title. One suggestion for a sequel would be Rock Out With Your Cop Out.
- I Am Not Leonard Nimoy - Both Smith and Jason Mewes are pretty much forever linked with their characters. It doesn't help that Smith continually names their joint projects Jay and Silent Bob [verb phrase]
- Joisey - He's a native New Jerseyan, and proud of it.
- Name's the Same - Not to be confused with Kevin Smith from Killer 7. Or, for that matter, the dead guy who played Ares.
- One of Us - see Promoted Fanboy
- Also a troper.
- Promoted Fanboy - Pretty much the textbook case. He was a movie obsessed comic book nerd who went on to become a respected film director, screenwriter and comic book writer.
- Schedule Slip - His comic book work is infamous for enormous gaps between issues and heavy delays.
- Screw Yourself: He once did a special for The Tonight Show where he showed some locations in New Jersey connected to his films. At one point he stands next to a replica of himself, and then proceeds to make out with it, saying it's something he always wanted to do.
- Signature Style - Little to no camera movement, lengthy conversations about sex (comic book character or otherwise) and Star Wars, and some scene involving hockey. All of which is frequently Lampshaded.
- The Stoner - In recent years, he's taken up smoking massive amounts of pot, crediting it with helping him out of a creative slump.
- And which some critics have credited with frying his brain, due to the perceived drop in quality between his earlier work and his more recent output.
- Take That:
"Cats is the second worst thing to ever happen to New York City."
—Jersey Girl (2002)
- Take That, Critics!: He tends to do this.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife - He's well aware of this, and mocks it frequently; during an interview on the Canadian TV show "The Hour", Smith claimed that he would never do a porno with his wife. Why? Because he would lose all respect for her; "How can you have sex with THAT?".
- Unstoppable Rage - He was recently thrown off a plane because of his weight. He was not happy.
- What the Hell, Hero?: The aforementioned tirade against critics.