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Film director Smith opens up for fans at his Q&A shows

You don't expect piety from a potty-mouthed guy who made a movie called "Dogma" that savaged the religion of his childhood.

Nevertheless, Kevin Smith says he always prays before going on stage for one of his "Evenings With Kevin Smith."

It's a simple prayer -- "Lord, let me be honest" -- but it says a lot about Smith and his relationship with his fiercely faithful fans.

"People love it when you get real," the 39-year-old Smith said in a recent phone conversation. "When you treat them honestly, they respond."

It's not stand-up comedy, Smith said. No jokes, no impersonations, no script.

Instead, it's a Q&A between Smith and the audience, who typically barrage him with queries about his career, his films and his personal life. These evenings are crammed with hilarious show-biz anecdotes, Smith's often sardonic opinions on current events and, occasionally, some dead-serious musings.

"I answer everything," Smith said. "At a recent Chicago show the last question was about the night my dad died. I told them, 'Bear with me because I might get emotional.' And in fact I started crying at the end.

"I remember getting offstage and thinking, 'Man, I'm going to be slaughtered on the Internet tomorrow. People didn't pay to see a fat guy bawl.'

"But people dug it because it was honest."

Few modern celebrities have the sort of intense relationship with their fans that Smith enjoys. His blog (viewaskew.com) is hugely popular (currently it's dominated by Smith's dissection of a recent incident in which he was thrown off a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat). He also tweets a dozen times a day attwitter.com/thatkevinsmith.

"Back in the day when I first started out, the only way to gauge how you were doing was to read the critics or check out the box-office figures. Now I can wake up in L.A. on the day my movie opens and on the Internet I'm already hearing from somebody who saw the first show in New York."

While his fan base skews young, Smith said he's always tickled to look out over an audience and see "blue hair."

"In the beginning that used to catch me off guard. I was tempted to announce that 'You, sir or madam, are definitely not part of my demographic.' But I realized that this means something good, that somebody brought their grandparent to the show and now they're bonding over my [penis] jokes.

"I'm going to heaven for that. Anyway, that's what my mom tells me."

While many know him only as the writer/director of outrageous films like "Clerks," "Chasing Amy" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," Smith's followers -- who often refer to themselves as citizens of the View Askewniverse -- faithfully keep up on his many enterprises: making movies, producing TV shows, writing comic books, doing his live show.

Given all this, you might assume that Smith is some sort of workaholic. No way.

"My father's dream was to have a wife and three kids," Smith said. "Mine is to never have to work again."

"My wife claims that all I do is work, but it's not work to me. I'd do this stuff for free. For me it's all about putting as much content out there as possible. When I shuffle off this mortal coil -- and I expect that will be today based on my sedentary lifestyle -- I want to leave lots behind."

Smith's Q&A shows are notorious for their length. His longest clocked in at nearly eight hours, but he now wraps things up in three to allow theater employees to go home.

"The end game is to be just successful enough to do what I love to do, which is to be paid to be a professional teenager."

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