The comedian talks about his film career's highlight (Shakes The Clown) and lowlight (the Police Academy series), as well as his current doings.
After making his first appearance on Late Night With David Letterman at the tender age of 20, Bobcat Goldthwait propelled himself into the public consciousness as that screaming guy from the Police Academy movies. Anyone who caught his stand-up act or his alcoholic-clown saga Shakes The Clown (1991), which Goldthwait also wrote and directed, realized that there was a genuinely funny, talented, smart man behind the screams. Recent years have found Goldthwait keeping a lower, often invisible profile by doing voice work for Disney's Hercules, MTV's Beavis And Butthead, and the WB television series Unhappily Ever After, for which he supplies the voice of Mr. Floppy. Goldthwait recently spoke to The Onion about puppets, directing, and auditioning for Kelsey Grammer vehicles.
The Onion: How are you doing?
Bobcat Goldthwait: I'm living the dream.
O: What does that mean?
BG: It just doesn't get much better. I don't know what that means. I guess it's just me being my normal, jolly self.
O: You're back on the road.
BG: Yeah, I'm out doing dates a lot. I'm always on the road, though. I'm always out doing these weekend dates.
O: The last time I saw you do stand-up on television, you seemed really angry and abusive toward the audience in a way I hadn't really seen you be abusive before. You said the words, "Fuck you. Don't clap when I leave." Are you really that angry?
BG: Nah. With that particular show, I was kind of mad at the producer, and I was trying to make it so there was no way he could cut it. He couldn't have the cheesy shot of everyone clapping as I walked off.
O: It certainly seemed to work.
BG: [Laughs.] Well, whatever. I mean, it's no big deal.
O: Yeah, I thought it was actually kind of funny.
BG: I don't know. How many times can you just go and do a set? I just, you know, sometimes find it kind of boring. Unfortunately, that's my livelihood.
O: It seems like you've been doing a lot of odd things since Shakes The Clown, which I thought got a bad rap. Was the reception disappointing to you?
BG: It certainly didn't light the fuse of my downward spiral, if that's what you're implying. Yeah, you make a movie and you wish people liked it, but as far as the ass-kicking I took for it… I mean, I went out and did some film festivals with it, and it was well-received. And then all of a sudden, when it went to… When we rolled it out to the big 15 screens during its national opening… Yeah, I guess people went crazy. And I have no idea why.
O: It seems to have had sort of a second life on video.
BG: Yeah, and then them crazy rock stars seem to like it.
O: Yeah, R.E.M. did that song ["Binky The Doormat," taken from a quote from Shakes]. I never quite made a connection between what that song was saying and what the movie was all about.
BG: Yeah… I was just happy that they used a line from the movie. I think it's actually about sex. There really wasn't a lot of sex in Shakes.
O: Yeah, and it wasn't exactly appealing sex when there was.
BG: [Laughs.] I don't know… That's you.
O: How's life on the road?
BG: I go on the road on the weekends. I spend two days a week working on The Dirty Rabbit Show [Unhappily Ever After] for the WB.
O: Tell me about The Dirty Rabbit Show.
BG: I go in… [Laughs.] I… I don't need to tell The Onion about The Dirty Rabbit Show. I've written an episode, but I'm the voice of a rabbit, a puppet.
O: You do a lot of voice work now.
BG: It's America's way of saying they don't want to see my puss.
O: You've done things for The Family Channel. That's getting weird. The other night I was watching it and they were showing Caddyshack.
BG: Yeah, I saw that too. I was wondering how much they cut out.
O: I watched a little, and they kept in the drug references. Which seems like a very un-Pat Robertson thing to do.
BG: Well, Pat's a bottom-line guy, you know? You can love God, but if he ain't makin' you some money, you better get some pot jokes in there quick.
O: Have you met Pat Robertson?
BG: I can't say I've had the pleasure. You know, that was the funny thing, because I did Hercules, and people were like, "Oh, you're working for Disney." And it's like, well, Disney put out Pulp Fiction, and besides, it's much weirder working for The Family Channel. You know? The Family Channel makes Disney look like Hustler.
O: Do you have a lot of contacts at The Family Channel?
BG: Do I still hang out with them?
O: Yeah, do they invite you to come over and hang out at their Family Channel parties?
BG: No, no, I've never been to any of their soirées or clambakes. They have a new, secular kind of regime there now.
O: How's your music-video career progressing?
BG: Well, on Thursday, I'm going to fly to Kentucky to meet the Southern Culture [On The Skids] guys. I'm trying to get a job directing their video. I just directed a video for this band The Aquabats, and I'm trying to get Southern Culture 'cause I really love those guys.
O: You still have some directing aspirations then?
BG: Oh, yeah. I tell you, directing a video was cool, because in the sitcom world and in the motion-picture world, I'm kind of considered dangerous, and someone you can't control. In the rock 'n' roll world, I'm someone who's responsible and levelheaded.
O: Why are you considered dangerous and out-of-control?
BG: Um… I wouldn't consider myself that, but I think it's probably because… In fact, I know exactly what it is. When I'm in these meetings and stuff, I just can't feign interest in dummies' opinions, you know? So, it's just not rewarded. When you're in these meetings, it's like, "Okay, dummy."
O: You've been working on a movie with Janeane Garofalo, right?
BG: I did a movie with her. It's a direct-to-tape thing. I just saw her the other night. We taped another special for Comedy Central, and I was asking her, "What the hell happened to that? That fine epic?" But yeah, I was in a movie that America's sweetheart was in.
O: Do you plan to direct a movie again?
BG: I keep writing films, and I'm always trying to scramble around to get another one going, but, you know, we'll see what happens. I've probably written three screenplays since Shakes.
O: And you're not having any luck with them.
BG: No… Well… "Long after Goldthwait's death…" I'm the Emily Dickinson of screenplays. I don't know if I'll ever get somebody to be dopey enough to give me money to go make a film again, but that's what I'm always trying to get going.
O: Does it bother you that people know you as the screaming guy from the Police Academy movies more than anything else?
BG: No, but it cracks me up when Hollywood, like… Someone won't see me because of that, you know, for a role. And it's like, "You're judging me by a series of films that I never saw." You know what I'm saying?
O: But the rest of us saw it.
BG: Well… I remember when… [Laughs.] I couldn't get into that movie Down Periscope, because I went in and the woman was going, "Well, we're not looking for Police Academy people." And I went, "Well, why do you have the guy who wrote Police Academy writing it if you're not looking for Police Academy people?"
O: You got rejected by Down Periscope. That's so sad.
BG: Yeah, I know, and then the woman goes, "How old are you? We're also looking for younger people." And I go, "Well, I'm Rob Schneider's age." And she goes, "Take off your hat." And I go, "I'm not going to take off my hat, lady, but I'll tell you I got a lot more hair than your leading man in this film."
O: What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever appeared in?
BG: Ow… That's the public service announcements I had to do for setting Leno's chair on fire, definitely.
O: What's the story with that again? I actually never watch Jay Leno, for much the same reason that you can't pay attention in meetings.
BG: Yeah, it's really hard to watch Leno. I set his chair on fire.
O: I take it that he didn't want his chair set on fire.
BG: No, but they wanted me to do something, 'cause less than five days before, I smashed up the Arsenio Hall set and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage, you know? They even jokingly said, "Don't break too many things when you get out there." And I'm going, "I'm not gonna break anything. I'm gonna set it on fire." So, you know.
O: And you had to do some PSAs because of that?
BG: Yeah, those are the most embarrassing. In my act I've talked about them jokingly, but the real story about what I had to say was really embarrassing, 'cause I had to be in character, then go, "Hi. I'm Bobcat Goldthwait… Uuuhuhuh…" Right? And then go, "I can switch in and out, but if you're seriously burned…" [Trails off laughing.] Here's the embarrassing part. I mean, that was still embarrassing, but I filmed them, and they showed them to the fire marshal in Burbank, and he didn't accept them because he didn't like my performance. Once again, I think sarcasm was oozing through. I had to redo it, but I just like the idea that this guy is like a fucking director.
O: Does most stand-up bother you?
BG: You know, I don't even watch it. So it doesn't bother me.
O: It just seems that so much stand-up comedy is so terrible, and then every once in while, someone is more confrontational, more interesting. I remember your appearance at Comic Relief… 2, I think, when you ended up cutting your hair off.
O: It was certainly a lot more interesting to watch than Bob Saget going on and on about, whatever.
BG: Oh, but someone's going to come along and be the new [Andy] Kaufman; it'll be as exciting as pre-Father Of The Bride Steve Martin. But I don't know who it will be. It ain't me, man. [Laughs.] I'm too tired. I'm too old.
O: So what's an average day like for you?
BG: It's usually 90 percent shit that I'm not interested in. I do live a very Hugh Beaumont existence. I'm up every morning, taking my kids to school and all that, which obviously does interest me. But then it's taking meetings with goofballs and auditioning for crap, and then I spend a lot of time on the road. There isn't really an average day. Like last week, I was in all these different cities, and then I was finishing editing the video, and then I was doing a damn Sabrina The Teenage Witch, then I was up in Seattle to host a benefit for [Nirvana and Sweet 75 bassist] Krist Novoselic. There isn't an average day.
O: Is there any work out there that interests you?
BG: I would like to be making my own movies, and I always keep hustling trying to do that. Directing videos and… I do stand-up, and it sounds really pretentious, but there is like this little alternative-comedy scene, and some nights it's really precious and not funny, and then other nights it can be funny. I'm not talking about me; I'm just talking in general. I like doing that.
O: Do you see yourself as sort of a father figure to some of the alternative comics now?
BG: I'm kind of like the Iggy Pop of it, you know? It's like, I can still do a pretty good show and everything. But most of my product sucks, you know? Like on every new Iggy album, there's only like one or two songs that are good. So that's what I am to these guys. And the weirdest part is that I'm their age, too. Which is funny. But I've just been in the public psyche for so long.