Upon the 2001 release of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks director Kevin Smith proclaimed he was all but through with his geek-beloved Askewniverse. But to his troubled pal Jason Mewes, Silent Bob (a.k.a. Smith) made a different pledge: Kick drugs and Jay will play once more. ''He's been sober for a year and a half,'' says Smith. ''I've got a promise to keep.'' Hence, The Passion of the Clerks, due next year. The sequel to Smith's 1994 indie landmark comes in the wake of his ill-fated PG-13 departure, Jersey Girl. ''I feel compelled to continue doing what I got into film to do: talky movies with low budgets about stuff that interests me. The response to Jersey Girl made it easier to do sooner rather than later.'' Clerks 2 will pick up the story of Dante (Brian O'Halloran), Randal (Jeff Anderson), and strip-mall lurkers Jay and Silent Bob 10 years later. Despite the spoofy Passion title, Smith promises down-and-dirty yuks without the scourging. ''It's been done,'' he quips.