There was a 20th Anniversary screening of Kevin Smith’s Clerks last night at Sundance. I still sometimes call it the funniest movie ever made.

The actual release date of Clerks was in October 1994 — an insane fall for films, because Pulp Fiction was out at the same time, as was Forrest Gump (and Shawshank) — so the actual 20th anniversary will be this October, which times out with the potential release of Clerks 3. However, yesterday at Sundance there was a ’20th Anniversary screening’ of the original, as you can see documented through Twitter:

A post on Vulture about a young girl seeing Clerks with her dad got some attention, notably for this section:

Here’s what I remember from my experience of sitting next to my father while watching Clerks: “Blow job, blow job, blow job, mean customer, rollerblade hockey, gay slur, big words, blow job, mean customer, intellectual discussion ofThe Empire Strikes Back vs. Return of the Jedi, blow job, big words, offscreen sex in the bathroom, fin.” That seems to have been the extent to which my hormone-addled brain was able to process the movie because, while the adventures (or lack thereof) of convenience-store clerk Dante Hicks and video-store clerk Randal didn’t involve even one moment of onscreen nudity, it was unrelentingly, grotesquely filthy.

I basically agree. I saw Clerks for the first time with my mom, who is a weird film-viewer (she walked out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit for some reason), and she was basically aghast at most of it, although she did laugh hysterically at this sequence:

I was 13 (about to be 14) in October 1994. Interestingly, whenever I get some social media survey or get in a bar discussion and people ask me my favorite movies of all-time, three things that always come up — Pulp Fiction, Clerks, and Shawshank — are from that time period. (Oddly, another one I say a lot is Big Fish, which came out 10 years later, in 2004.) I don’t think I’ve ever had a person ask me “What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?” and not said Clerks. If I watched the entire thing today, I’d still laugh just as hard as I did while wondering if my mom was going to make some perverse assumptions about my laughing back then.

For years also, I had this quote as my social media profile/dating website/all that shit, because I thought it perfectly encapsulated me (still does, to an extent):

You want to go? But you hate people!

But I love gatherings.

In many ways, Clerks is considered one of the THE — if not straight-up the biggest breakout hit in Sundance history. Kevin Smith showed up there with a movie he had made for about $27K, won the Filmmaker Prize, and eventually got broader release, profit, and a career out of it. Here’s a bit more about the Clerks process via Sundance. Here’s a more interesting story (I remember getting Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes for Christmas in 1995 and reading it cover to cover in about a day. I can’t do that with reading anymore, sadly.)

I remember seeing Mallrats, and actually getting the chance to review it for a small ‘zine at my HS, and being utterly disappointed because, while funny, it wasn’t nearly as laugh-out-loud funny as Clerks (the line about the back of a Volkswagen is pretty good over time, though). I wrote a not-so-great review and four-five kids at my HS came up to me and told me I was totally misguided and that, in fact, Mallrats had been a great movie. I just didn’t think anything could come close (in fairness, I don’t think anyone would group Mallrats and Clerks into the same category). I thought Chasing Amy was a good movie, but I never got super into it. I have a friend that lost her virginity to a black guy while on Ecstasy, and I feel like that’s a parallel for Kevin Smith’s directorial career: the first time was just so much, and so intense … everything else was a bit of a letdown, even if great in its own right.

Mostly what I’ve done here is talk a little bit about my awkward adolescence and embed some funny-as-hell YouTubes. I felt like I could be a bit more passionate, but you know what? I’m content with this. At the very least I can bookmark this post for myself and keep coming back to watch the 37 dicks scene and the annoying customers scene. Clerks: do it small, do it great, make the dialogue the king, paint a picture about trying to escape your existence with the brush of humor, and please don’t end with someone dying (thank you).

Ted Bauer