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Q&A – Bryan Johnson (Comic Book Men)

Bryan Johnson is not an employee at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, but he’s as much a part of the store as anyone else. In this exclusives interview with AMCtv.com, he talks about the drawbacks of having a potty mouth on reality TV and his love of busting Ming’s chops.

Q: How did Kevin Smith present the idea for the show to you?

A: He called me and basically laid it out, like, “Hey, I was talking to the executive producer on Red State. She has a friend at Original Media that wants to do a reality show about a comic book store.” He said they could use his place, then they wanted to use us too, that’s how they presented it. I’m usually in for just about everything. My big reservation was becoming part of a TV genre that I criticize often. But the good point was, well, maybe we can bring a little respect back to Jersey after Jersey Shore.

Q: Since you’ve been in movies, were you more comfortable than the other guys about being a TV personality ?

A: I think we were all sort of, in the beginning, a little bit weirded out by the cameras being there. But once you fall into your comfort zone — which is making fun of each other — you sort of forget the cameras are there. Kevin told me all you have to do is just be yourself. It’s not a performance. I’m not really memorizing lines or anything, so I felt it was a lot easier, actually, than being in a movie.

Q: Were your conversations different with the cameras there?

A: I think the only difference is we don’t curse nearly as much. That was the big hurdle to get over. We normally talk with sort of a working-class speech, so we had to watch our words.

Q: Did you ever have to re-shoot anything because someone swore too much?

A: A couple times, because you get carried away. You’re just in the moment and you say things you’re not really supposed to. It’s like, okay, let’s do that but maybe without so many four-letter words.

Q: You’re always at the Secret Stash. Have you ever lobbied for a job there?

A: When the store opened, I was managing it for the first year or so. Then I left to make Vulgar, the movie with Kevin’s company. After that I was in post-production for a while, so I didn’t really go back. But God, no, I hate retail. I like people but don’t like dealing with them, and I hate the business aspect where I have to answer questions or respond to complaints I don’t care about.

Q: Who’s the biggest nerd of the four guys?

A: That’d be Mike for sure, without a second’s hesitation. It’s just the corny glee with which he embraces stuff that is not real. He’s definitely the nerdiest and geekiest. Walter’s got a lot of knowledge, but he’s not your typical clichéd nerd.

Q: What do you think makes the Secret Stash different from other comic book shops?

A: One, it hasn’t closed down due to the economy and the waning interest in comics. But I would think the additional incentive of having all Kevin’s film memorabilia there. It’s sort of like, if Planet Hollywood wasn’t corporate, it would be something like this. It’s a very laid-back, casual place where you can come check out stuff from the [Kevin Smith] movies you like. His early stuff is very cultish, so people show up with directions printed out to get to Quick Stop [the Clerks convenience store.]

Q: You mentioned the waning interest in comics. You don’t think comic books are getting more popular with all the movies that are coming out?

A: No. I don’t see it translating. I think people may see a comic book movie and it will spur their interest a little bit. But if you’re into comics, you’re into comics. I think that in today’s world, where there’s Internet, video games, movies, TV shows, 500 channels, to get a new audience into a medium that is sort of expensive is hard. Four dollars for a comic book? That’s a lot. Even your hardcore collectors have had to scale back. For fifty dollars, they used to be able to get 25 comics, so when you find yourself cutting down like that, I think the mentality is, I’ll just forget it. I’ll try something else. I think generating interest in newer audience members is very difficult with the competition out there.

Q: What do you love most: comics, TV shows or busting Ming’s chops?

A: Oooh, comics is a distant runner-up. As much as I like Breaking Bad, there’s nothing like getting in a good zinger off Ming.

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