Bobcat Goldthwait on reality television, 'Police Academy,' 'RuPaul's Drag Race'
You may know Bobcat Goldthwait from his recent films, the cult sensation World's Greatest Dad and the forthcoming God Bless America. Or, if you've been paying less attention, you might recall his role as the squeaky-voiced gang leader Zed from the Police Academy movies. But Goldthwait was a standup comic first and foremost.
Goldthwait started performing when he was still in his teens, though his career eventually took a bit of a digression. But whether he's working in film or standup format, Goldthwait's a master storyteller and his act is a careful balance of self-deprecation and absurdity. Despite his seemingly cavalier attitude towards the craft, his influence on modern comedy remains immeasurable today.
City Pages recently caught up with the comedic veteran to talk about doing standup again, filmmaking, and the pleasures and perils of reality television. He'll be in town for the next three days at Acme Comedy Co.
You're on tour, you have a new movie coming out soon, and Showtime just premiered your new special. Do you ever get overwhelmed juggling all these projects at once?
No. But the Showtime special was recorded a while ago. So, I'm a little nervous. It sat on the shelf for a long time, and I'm worried about the material remaining fresh. But I guess a good Fergie joke has legs.
How's it feel to be doing standup regularly again?
It's okay. It's starting to be fun again. When I directed Jimmy Kimmel, I stopped standup for about six years. [At the time] I kind of didn't like standup, but what I really didn't like was being stuck in the persona that folks knew me from in the '80s. So it was hard to adjust to that and start doing standup again.
So what did you do to get out of that shell?
It really hit me when I went back on the road after not doing it. I was like, 'Why don't I like this? Everybody's being pretty nice to me.' And then I realized, 'Oh, I don't like this act.'
That said, how do you feel you've changed as a comic then?
Well, as a form I think it's more of an extension of me and less of a character.
Do you think directing and writing movies has informed your comedy at all?
The only relationship they have is that standup keeps me making small indie movies without having to get a job within the studio system.
Your last few films have been dark, but you seem like such a jolly person. Where does it come from?
I'm not a dark person, but these are the things that interest me. I think with the last two, Sleeping Dogs Lie and World's Greatest Dad, even if people say they're dark, I really don't feel like they are because the endings are kind of upbeat. I would say God Bless America is a darker movie.
Your new movie targets reality television stars in particular, is that something that sincerely bothers you?
No, it's just a jumping off place for Frank's killing spree. Frank isn't addicted to reality television, he has a television on as a way to drown out his neighbor's baby. Even if you choose not to watch reality television or choose not to be involved in pop culture, it still infiltrates your life in conversation, the news, and the web. It doesn't really bother me, but it's a good example of how dumb we've become. Frank just wants to kill people who aren't nice, and reality television is just a good example of that.
The thing I always found weird about it is how people hate it yet indulge in it simultaneously.
Yeah, that's why some of the references in the movie are probably dated. A few years back I was like, 'Well I'm out, I'm not going to watch it anymore.' Although I do slip every once in a while and watch RuPaul's Drag Race. I'm rooting for Sharon Needles to win.
Are you worried about those references being dated?
No, I don't really worry about much. I tried to pick the big ones that would remain in the pop-culture psyche. This movie is the one that actually takes place at a particular time. In the other movies I make it really vague so you don't know when it takes place, but this one is supposed to be taking place now.
What do you think the rise of reality television says about fame? Fame doesn't seem to mean the same thing anymore in America.
Before, you used to have to have some sort of skill. Now, you just need the ability to stand in line. You know what's kind of interesting are how game shows were so popular. Like Deal or No Deal. Usually on the game show you have to have knowledge or a skill, but now you just pick boxes.
You just have to get people's attention somehow.
Yeah, in order to be a celebrity now you just need someone follow you around. It's just an example of our dumbing down and our narcissism.
You toured with Nirvana back in the day, if you could tour with one band today who would it be?
I guess it would be Ray Davies of The Kinks.
Do the Police Academy shout outs ever upset you?
No. It's kind of funny, people would think that it would upset me. If I wasn't making my own movies and doing a bunch of other stuff, I guess I probably would be bothered by that.
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
708 N. First St., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
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