Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is, in many ways, like the View Askew version of Disneyland. You go there to see the historic memorabilia (Look! It’s Jay’s beanie, with Snoogans printed on it!), iconic larger than life characters (Woah! Steve-Dave and Walter! Take my picture!) And… well, there are roller coasters and shit at Disneyland. But now AMC is prepared to take us on a metaphorical roller coaster (see how I kind of… never mind) of exciting adventures as we peek behind the curtain and into the world of the crazy characters who run this castle of comics and collectible crap.
Here’s the premise: Walt Flanagan runs the Stash. Mike Zapcic, who, according to Kevin Smith “has forgotten more about comics than Stan Lee will ever know,” and Ming Chen, tech expert, work at the Stash. Bryan Johnson, director of the controversial dark comedy Vulgar (I refuse to describe him as a “Career Slacker,” no matter what the AMC press kit says), hangs out there constantly because he and Walt are best friends. People come in with valuable and worthless collectibles, comics, dolls, posters, etc to try and get Walter or Mike to buy them. They negotiate, Bryan makes a joke, somebody insults Ming, and then the transaction is completed or not. While Bryan is the funniest of the bunch, Ming is inspiring in his ability to absorb insults and abuse without the slightest hint of annoyance. The pilot features an original Bob Kane Sketch done on the back of a press release, a disturbing woman who really likes her weird life-size Chucky, and a dude handcuffed to a briefcase.
The antiques roadshow aspect of it is the by far the lamest part of the show. It feels a little tacked on to try and mirror shows like Pawn Stars while appealing to an audience that otherwise might not want to watch these guys sit around and talk, even though with all their podcast experience, as Smith puts it, “These guys have turned sitting around and talking into an artform.”
Which brings me to the strongest part of the show. There’s banter and interplay between the characters of a caliber that’s rare on most reality shows. These men have been friends for multiple decades, and it shows. Their chemistry is especially evident in the podcast portions of the show, which replace the standard reality trope of the “confessional,” in which a “character” usually address the camera about how someone in the house is being a total skank. Instead we see the four men, plus Smith (because he’s a big name and it’s his show, dammit), talking to each other about what we’ve just seen. They also discuss tangential topics, recap their adventures, and make more jokes at Ming’s expense.
Those of you familiar with the Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave podcast will be happy to know that they’ve generally kept the same tone, though they could not use podcast regular Brian Quinn because of a contract issue (he’s on that show Impractical Jokers on TruTv, because… well, he has his reasons). When I talked to Johnson, he assured me that “as far as the conversations, it’s pretty close [to TESD]. Obviously it’s more comic books and collectibles oriented… also the language is a lot cleaner.”
Yeah, they have adventures too. Though it felt a little like a producer suggested it, their trip to the Collingswood Swap Meet is reminiscent of the “dirt mall” scene in Mallrats, and all the guys, especially Bryan, are entertaining as they try to sell off their excess inventory. It also showcased the stoic pride and good nature of Ming, who took some especially harsh treatment with a smile and a nod. These guys are entertaining enough to watch that the forced nature of “hey, let’s have a sales competition at a swap meet” takes a back seat to just observing them as they do their thing.
Why make this show at all, though? Walt is clearly not a fan of reality shows, and these guys are hardly the mugging type of publicity whores who clamor for their lives to be taped. Is it for the money? Smith addressed this question during a panel this way:
“[The money] is nice, but don’t get me wrong. I ain’t gonna fucking retire off Comic Book Men. You don’t do this for the money, you do it for this: ‘You mean I’m gonna turn on the TV, and after Walking Dead ends I’m gonna see my fucking friends on it? I’ll pay you, brother.’”
Smith continued: “If you’re in it for the money you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. Money is a bottomless chasm none of us can fucking fill. There’s no such thing as enough, and we’ll always want fucking more, because we think it’s some sort of measurement of our worth. Which it’s not. It’s the least creative aspect of the human race. Here’s paper. Give me services and goods. It’s ridiculous. Fuck the dollar, let’s just do it and see if it works.”
Hopefully that attitude will translate to the show, and if they get another season, AMC will trust these guys to carry the show without the dependence on the premise of buying and stressing the “worth” of comics and collectibles.
Overall, the combination of AMC’s willingness to work outside the borders of the genre combined with the stars’ genuine dislike of reality television helps the show immensely. They’ve said on multiple occasions that they see this as an opportunity to promote their store, get their names out there, and spread the word that comic book stores are still around and selling quality entertainment you can hold in your hands. Upcoming episodes feature zombies (it’s on after Walking Dead, after all) and an Adam West-era Batman Cowl on Bryan Johnson. Plus, at least one cameo from Jason Mewes has been teased, so I think it’s worth giving this show a shot. It’s only six episodes, and you’re already watching Walking Dead anyway.
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Written by Myles Cockcroft (@myleswithay)
Myles Hewette Cockcroft is a writer, comedian and part-time unemployed person living in Brooklyn, New York. When not watching terrible movies on Netflix streaming, he watches TV shows from his youth over and over again, often while weeping and cursing the heavens. He co-wrote and directed the short film My… More »
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