Sam Strange Remembers: CLERKS

One of the greatest producers in the history of the film business brings his musings to Badass Digest. Welcome Sam Strange as he looks back at the making of his film CLERKS.

It seems to me lately that movie fans don’t have a true grasp of or even an appreciation for film history. Everyone walks around acting like there were no movies before Star Wars. That’s just ridiculous. And honestly, it’s sad. How could people profess to love something and yet know so little about it?

Movies were around long before I made Star Wars. And I should know because I made the first film ever: Clerks. It was made in 1969. That’s a whole seven years before the second movie ever made, Star Wars.

Watching Clerks now is a bit painful, I admit. It was a difficult birth, and it’s striped with ugly stretch marks. But it’s also beautiful in its innocence, and I can’t deny a tear of nostalgia for my younger days when I watch it. Things were a lot simpler then. We didn’t have today’s luxurious tools, but we were our own bosses. All we needed was a handful of credit cards and a trench coat filled with attitude. Things like CG, 3D, Color, and Story all came later to improve film or, rather, to dilute a pure cinematic expression we no longer have.

We didn’t know what actors were back then, so I didn’t hire any. It was RAW. It’s black and white because I hadn’t invented color yet. RAW. Excuse me if I didn’t know right away that you could roll film and move the camera at the same time. I was too busy being COLD-CARROT RAW. Raw food’s RAW. How you gonna get veggie enzymes if you cook the shit out of them!

So at first Clerks is about these two guys who work in a convenient store and spend all day talking about stuff they like and stuff they hate. People walk in and out of the store and occasionally have some effect on the conversation. Pro Tip: if you listen carefully for subtle hints in the dialog, you’ll find some seeds which later become Star Wars.

The main character, Dante, is in crisis for several reasons. One, he works in a convenient store, which irks him because he mistakenly believes he’s better than that. Two, he has a girlfriend who loves him named Boba Fett, but an early scene reveals that Boba Fett gave an unacceptable amount of blowjobs before meeting Dante. This really makes him mad. Three, he’s still in love with an ex-girlfriend named Nien Nunb who treated him like shit and may be back in town to treat him like shit some more. He must decide between the nice girl he doesn’t like and the mean girl he loves.

While all this is going on, Randal looks at him confused because he lives a life completely untouched by all this bullshit. He knows his limited potential and embraces it. He’s also deeply in love with Dante, and since they work at the same place everyday, all his needs are met. So why not party?

Dante makes the wrong girl choice but can’t even get fucked over again by Nien Nunb because she accidentally cheats on him with a corpse. Whoops! He tries to smooth things over with Boba Fett, but she’s all pissed off. Dante and Randall hear she’s at the mall, so they close down the Clerks shop and follow.

At the mall, they run into two drug dealers named Salacious B. Crumb and Fat Yoda. These two guys are kind of like cartoon characters who help alleviate all the RAWNESS, while also giving me clever, random things to cut to whenever someone fucked a line up. They’re really good friends with Dante and Randal despite the fact that neither do drugs. When Salacious B. Crumb talks he mixes that Snoop Dog “izzle” thing with frequent cursing and Urkel-isms to create an annoying character by way of original derivatives. When Fat Yoda talks, yoga girls drop their tights.

So at the mall, Dante finds that Boba Fett is about to be auctioned off on her father’s Dating Game T.V. show. To block this from happening, Salacious B. Crumb and Fat Yoda use their hilarious drug dealing antics to get Randal on-set to sabotage the show. After a few rounds of answer questions like: “What’s your ideal date like?” with “Why don’t you go fuck yourself you fucking pig-nosed dyke? Lord of the Rings novels fucking suck,” the show gets prematurely canceled, and Boba Fett is off her dad’s whore hook.

Dante thinks this is good news, but it’s not. Randal’s crudity has sworn Boba Fett off men for life. Shocked, Dante decides to strike back by being gay, too. He moves in with Randal, and the two start a comic book together called Salacious B. Crumb and Fat Yoda Strike Back.

The story of the comic is pretty simple. Salacious B. Crumb and Fat Yoda take a road trip to Hollywood because they heard people were penciling mean, 140 character-long things about them on telephone poles all over town. On the way they manage to disrupt a live radio program which is shockingly about them. In fact, they are bigger celebrities than they ever realized. (In an innovative pre-cameo, this radio program features the vocal talents of Mark Hamill.)

They track down the nay-sayers and begin nay-saying them back on telephone poles until they all apologize. Then they get on a plane. Then they get kicked off a plane for undisclosed reasons. So they get on a different plane. They get kicked off that plane, too. Also for undisclosed—oh no wait. Fat Yoda disclosed the reason to anyone who would listen and many who would not. You can’t fly if your head weighs over 200 pounds.

So they hitchhike back to Jersey, but it’s not so easy. Two renegade angels are on a mission to destroy Earth. Their main adversary is a really really really bored lady who’s distantly related to Jesus B. Christ. Salacious B. Crumb stumbles into the plot by soliciting butt-sex from Bored Christ Lady. Next thing they know, they’re waking God from a coma and shooting the wings off angles with uzis. The comic book ends with God kissing them both on the cheek. She can’t thank them because Her voice will make their hearts explode. They can’t thank Her because Fat Yoda’s voice will make Her drop Her tights.

Back in Jersey, things have become somewhat stagnant. Dante and Randal’s comic is deemed too stupid even for children, and they must return to the minimum wage wasteland, this time at a fast food dump.

Their love is strong until Dante catches the eye of his manager, Yarna D’al Gargan, a woman beautiful enough to have six breasts. Dante doesn’t know what to do. Again, he’s working a job he mistakenly finds beneath him. He’s engaged to his best friend, but his heart’s captured by this Yarna lady.

He solves the problem by gently introducing a threesome relationship which would include ass-to-mouth for all. Not only is that idea accepted, but they become business partners as well. Together, they buy the old Clerks store and rebuild it as their own business. Dante is so happy with the outcome that he breaks things off with Randal permanently.

Soon Yarna D’al Gargan gets pregnant. Sadly, the baby kills her. Now Dante has to raise a kid all alone. Even his best friend is gone. He moves in with his cranky dad and dedicates his entire focus on his little girl. This means that instead of dating, he watches tons and tons of pornography. Eventually a woman, Queen Amidala’s Decoy, notices and tries to do something about it. But after years of penile solitude, Dante can’t perform. In order to make the connection, Queen Amidala’s Decoy realizes that pornography is the only answer. The two finally get it on while making their own porno film. It’s fucking beautiful.

Then two cops arrest them for making a porno in front of a child. One’s white and stoic, the other’s black and retarded. Sitting in his cell, Dante montages upon his life, one third of which was a comic book about two stoners. He and Queen Amidala’s Decoy get married, right there and then. But because he was at one time a faggot, a guy who thinks God hates faggots suddenly breaks in and shoots him in the goatee.

So that’s it. I learned a lot making Clerks and for that alone, it was worth it. Never again would I make a 20 hour long, black and white, static shot, overly talky film about a whiny asshole’s boring life, but what the hell. With the invention of film, came the invention of critics, and Clerks just wasn’t made for those people. They were very mean to me, and it hurt my feelings. Ever since, critics have been banned from watching my films. I don’t care if they’re at home, in an airplane, whatever. I won’t let it happen My flicks ain’t for them cats.

(three stars)

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