While Making ‘Porno,’ Kevin Smith Lets Seth Rogen Come Out On Top

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kevin Smith is the David Mamet of comedy. Both are modern-day wordsmiths who compose poetic language that elevates the voice of the common man, spoken in a stylized manner that demands devotion, balancing every philosophical comment with an F-bomb for good measure.

But what happens when Mr. Smith met Mr. Seth Rogen, one of our generation’s greatest improv artists?

“I made it really clear before I went anywhere near committing to the movie that I needed to be loose,” Rogen said of October’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” the highly anticipated flick that will mark Rogen’s first starring effort outside the universe of Judd Apatow.

Like any Kevin Smith movie from “Mallrats” to “Dogma,” the comedy about two platonic friends attempting to raise money by making a sex film was committed to the page before the roles were ever cast. And we’ve all seen actors who perfect the art of delivering Smith’s rapid-fire New Jersey randomness (Jason Lee), or get swallowed up by the verbosity of his dialogue. But recently, Seth Rogen revealed to us that the MPAA is battling with Smith over the “Zack and Miri” rating, and that for a little while, he had to put up a fight as well.

“I love Kevin Smith; I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager,” he insisted. “But I feel like [improv] is the way people expect comedy to be like now. In its time, the very-scripted kind of conversation was really new and revolutionary, but I feel like audiences have moved on from that, and expect more of a conversational, naturalistic kind of improvisational feel.”

“I told [Smith] I’m not going to change everything, but if everyone just knows they can change things, I find that it makes all the actors seem more real, like it’s actually a conversation that’s happening,” Rogen remembered of his early discussions with the man whose screenplays have been nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards. “So, he was actually not strict at all with the dialogue. We improvised a lot, we changed the words around, and [he hired] guys like Craig Robinson, who is an amazing improviser.”

Now, as long as the MPAA gives “Zack and Miri” an R rating, Rogen claims that audiences will find a new voice from Smith come October 31st. “I’ve seen the movie, and there’s a lot of improvised stuff in it, and it gives it that less-stilted feel. It feels more like a naturalistic movie,” he explained. “[In some comedies] you can just see the guy behind the keyboard writing it, you feel as though you see the guys reading it and memorizing it, and I don’t like that all…If it’s a movie that’s supposed to be real and take place in the real world, I need to feel like the characters are actually having these conversations.”

“[I felt like that] with ’Juno,'” Rogen added. “I love that movie, but again it feels really written to me; it’s really clever how one line leads directly to the next one, but life just isn’t like that.”

Which do you prefer: Slickly written screenplays by Kevin Smith and Diablo Cody, or improv by the likes of Rogen and Will Ferrell? Are you glad that Rogen was able to talk Smith into finally embracing the realm of the unscripted?