Written by Byron Kerman Wednesday, 19 May 2010 18:13
“Richard Gere never said, ‘Hey, I never put a hamster in my ass.’’
Bobcat Goldthwait is still alive. A lot of people come up to him, he reports, and say, “Bobcat Goldthwait! I thought you were dead.”
“Our culture is like, we really don’t have any shame anymore,” explains the comedian/actor/director. “People think that if you’re a person that was known in the ’80s, you should be in a reality show by now.”
Indeed, Bobcat is very much alive, and experiencing what you might call a career renaissance as a director, as well as a comedian whose stand-up act has evolved in voice—figuratively and literally. He no longer screams and whines like he’s having a nervous breakdown onstage in that wildman persona he won fame with in the ’80s, and his material is more modern, and brutally real. He’ll be performing at St. Louis’s Casino Queen on May 27..
Goldthwait spoke to PLAYBACK:stl about his 2009 indie-film hit World’s Greatest Dad, starring Robin Williams; his 1991 cult classic Shakes the Clown; directing The Jimmy Kimmel Show (2004-07); being banned from The Tonight Show; divorce and marriage; ass-kicking gay Marines; and being Bobcat.
You’ve done so many different things over the years, from stand-up to Shakes the Clown to World’s Greatest Dad. Why are you coming to East St. Louis to do stand-up comedy at this point in your career?
That’s a good question. I do stand-up in between gigs. I direct different shows here and there [most recently, Important Things With Demetri Martin for Comedy Central –ed.], and I do stand-up to pay the bills. I direct shows, and I make small movies, like World’s Greatest Dad and Sleeping Dogs Lie. [The latter is a comedy about the repercussions of a young woman performing oral sex on her dog –ed..]
Do people expect you to bust out in your old voice when you do stand-up?
I’m assuming yes. I don’t think the same folks that come to a comedy club necessarily know me for my stand-up. They know me from Police Academy [Bobcat appeared as “Zed” in three sequels in the film-comedy franchise –ed.]. A nice thing happened to me the other weekend. I was in Winnipeg doing stand-up and I had more people with World’s Greatest Dad DVDs for me to sign than Police Academy VHS’s. [laughs]
You have said that people think you’re dead?
Yeah, I get that a lot. Our culture is like, we really don’t have any shame anymore. People think that if you’re a person that was known in the ’80s, you should be in a reality show by now, and I got into directing instead. But also, people confuse me with Sam Kinison… Richard Gere never said, “Hey, I never put a hamster in my ass.” I’m sure he thinks people are smart enough to figure out the truth, but I’m done remaining silent on some things about me. One, I’m not derivative of Kinison, and I never stole material. And the other thing, like, once there was a story that A.J. Benza said I was in a heroin rehab. I’ve never even done heroin. People don’t know this, but I haven’t even had a drink since I was 19, but I never talk about it, just because everybody that doesn’t drink thinks it’s an achievement, so they go on and on about it. It’s not an achievement to survive. That doesn’t take bravery. It takes common sense.
I saw the interview you did on Kimmel with Robin Williams, and you said “I just want to be taken seriously as a director,” which got laughs from the studio audience. But I’ve seen your last two films, which had a thoughtful side to the comedy, and you weren’t kidding. World’s Greatest Dad, for instance, is very funny, but also really gets into the ideas of guilt and ambition. What are you working on now—more thoughtful comedy?
I just finished two more screenplays. One is a vigilante movie, about a tough ex-Marine who goes into a redneck town, and he’s gay, and he kicks all this homophobic ass. [Laughs] I’ve also been working on a movie musical based on a Kinks album from the ’70s called Schoolboys in Disgrace. The Kinks did a whole bunch of albums that were concept albums, and this one is about the origin of a villain, and it has been my favorite album all my life. All the songs are very rock, and some of them feel very much like ’50s and ’60s stuff. I hate using the word “dark,” but it does have a dark tone. But any musical has that darkness, be it Chicago or Little Shop of Horrors or—
Oh, Cabaret, definitely. Look at Oliver. That’s some really dark shit going on there.
And your other screenplay, about the gay avenger—
I’m out trying to find an actor that’s willing to kick ass and then get some ass. [Laughs] I’m looking for the right “out” gay actor. And as much as I like Nathan Lane, I wouldn’t buy him as an ass-kicking Marine…
You need a “bear.”
Definitely. I wish there was some bear actor that was out—or “out-ter.” I’ve made four movies now, and I think they’re all different, and I just want to keep making movies, and not the same movies over and over. But there is a subtext in most of the movies I’m making, anyway.
Oh, do you mean your sick sense of humor?
No, I mean that my ex is an asshole, to be brutally honest. [Laughs] I was at the Writers’ Guild building yesterday, and I saw all these photos in the lobby of like 12 contemporary writers on the wall. There was one photo at the end of Billy Wilder smiling, and I was looking at all the other photos of guys who are huge and successful now, but I was like, that’s the guy I want to be—I want to be Billy Wilder. Not that I could ever be as talented as him, but that’s the life I want: the guy who’s smiling, and who got to make a whole bunch of different kinds of movies.
Have you been a guest on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast?
No, but I know of it.
You would be perfect for that. It’s really smart, cool comedians being totally honest, and it’s great.
I should look into it. I’ve just started to go back to doing sets in Los Angeles at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and the Improv Olympics, and it’s very freeing to go onstage without the baggage of people expecting me to be “Grover.” I was always more comfortable hiding behind a persona than being myself. No matter who you are when you’re up there, it isn’t you. You’re projecting this image.
Do you still own that jumpsuit with the fringe on it, by any chance?
No, I do not.
When people recognize you on the street, do they say “I don’t mean to insult you, but you look like Bobcat Goldthwait?”
I look the worst I’ve looked in years, which is funny because I haven’t felt more excited about working in years. I just finished two screenplays, and I’m halfway through a new one, and I just keep writing, and I’m starting to do stand-up again, and I direct things all the time, but in the meantime, I know that I look like a cabbie. I put on a lot of weight after I had back surgery last year. I was in the hospital a little shy of a month. And that’s when I got married, because I was like, “I’m not gonna find anyone else to wash my taint.” [Laughs] If you’re living with someone and they’re willing to wash your taint, you better marry that person.
Yeah, that doesn’t happen so often after childhood.
No, not after age two.
You met your wife working on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, and she’s a creative person, too.
She’s a costume designer, and she’s also the woman who glued tubes on the guy’s face in Jackass 2. [Laughs]
I loved seeing Toby Huss from The Adventures of Pete & Pete in World’s Greatest Dad.
Toby is a really good buddy. I like working with my friends. I think that there’s obviously a lot of folks that, just because someone wasn’t on Arrested Development or Saturday Night Live doesn’t mean that they’re not valid.
Are you still banned from The Tonight Show?
I’m not on Leno, but on the other hand, I don’t really pursue those kind of things…
You must have realized the irony of becoming the director of a talk show—
—as someone who’s not allowed on talk shows? [Laughs] Sure. I’ve thought about that, too, like I wondered if I was on this show, and I caused all that destruction, like I did on other shows, would I be mad or excited? I think that as long as I didn’t hurt Jimmy or the people in the audience, I would have been very excited. Because I was there a couple of days when Andy Dick was on, and I had no idea what the fuck he was going to do.
Do people still come up to you and tell you how much they liked Shakes the Clown?
All the movies that I’ve made are either very “cult-y,” or people don’t like them. I don’t wear that as a badge of honor, but at the same time, I can’t see myself doing, say, Marmaduke. And I only say that because I already sold out. My early career was my Marmaduke phase. I did all these movies that you do when you don’t care anymore, when I first started. Now, if I’m going to be behind the camera, I’m trying to put forth stuff that I would actually go see. I really wish I could teach a course in “Los Angeles.” Like, they’re going to tell you to buy a house—don’t do it. Put some money away. Only a few people end up having huge careers. Decide what you want to do. I actually do have a couple of friends who are on the right path. I keep saying to them, “Keep saying no to the things that don’t feel right, and do the things onstage that make you comfortable and happy.” | Byron Kerman
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