Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our inscrutable whims. This week: One more time, we’re accounting for our sins of omission and looking back on the best movies of 2021 we didn’t review.
For comedy fans who grew up not only watching the various stand-up specials HBO would air every month but also recording them on VHS, Bobcat Goldthwait’s Joy Ride will be some very filling catnip. The documentary/comedy concert film follows Goldthwait and fellow veteran comedian Dana Gould on a multi-state tour (primarily through the South) where they perform new material. It’s a trek that was almost derailed when the two got in an auto accident that left Goldthwait with a concussion and both with broken ribs. But they recuperated and got back on the road. As Goldthwait tells an Atlanta crowd, “I’m not Gary Busey. I know where I am!”
On stage, the two comics also regale the audience with stories from their ’80s and ’90s heyday in the stand-up trenches, when Goldthwait was a manic provocateur and Gould was a young up-and-comer whom his tour-mate despised for telling risqué jokes. Goldthwait doesn’t mind presenting himself as a comedian who was something of a stone-cold prick in his glory days, often alienating audiences and powerful Hollywood folk with his loud, punk shtick. The comic works in footage of his destructive talk-show appearances, setting fire to a chair on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (a stunt that led to misdemeanor charges and mandated public-service announcements) or trashing the set of the about-to-be-cancelled Arsenio Hall Show, prompting an appreciative Hall to quietly thank him as he was holding his guest down.
Goldthwait also wasn’t shy about criticizing fellow comics who didn’t measure up to his standards. There’s a whole sequence here where he cuts to footage from Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, as Jerry Seinfeld has an expletive-filled meltdown when guest Bridget Everett mentions Goldthwait’s name. (It seems that Seinfeld is still upset about that time Goldthwait publicly called him “the Devil” for “banging teenage girls.”)
Goldthwait admits that he spent most of his prime going on a self-destructive tear, often indulging in dickish behavior because he loathed his own success. (He was best known, after all, as the crazy cop who screamed a lot in the Police Academy movies.) It wasn’t until he became a filmmaker that he truly began to enjoy his work, dropping envelope-pushing comedies like World’s Greatest Dad, starring his late pal Robin Williams. (Some of the best anecdotes Goldthwait tells onstage often involve Williams; he closes the movie talking about the time his friend met the sign-language-speaking gorilla Koko.)
As for Gould, who went from doing stand-up to being a longtime writer on The Simpsons, his road to serenity took some unsettling turns. Much like Goldthwait, the comedian grew up in a not-quite-functional family. As he tells Goldthwait en route to another gig, a visit to see the fam in the early ’90s triggered “an underground ocean of anger” that led to him not sleeping for a whole awake for a week and eventually being hospitalized.
It’s during these moments that Joy Ride becomes more about two men finding personal catharsis and inner peace than the right bit to kill a crowd. As Goldthwait and Gould go from town to town, spilling their guts to themselves and whichever audience they’re facing that night, their public bull session morphs into a confessional, two-man show where these so-called frenemies ultimately reveal just how much they care for each other.
Availability: Joy Ride is available to rent or purchase from the major digital services.