An alcoholic clown hooking up with Mrs. Brady. A woman experimenting on her dog in college. A 16-year-old’s death via auto-erotic asphyxiation. The shooting of an infant in the first minute of your movie. In the real world, these things are not very funny at all (save for the alcoholic clown hooking up with Florence Henderson. That’s always funny…). In Bobcat Goldthwait’s world however, every single one of these manages to become deliciously and morbidly funny.
His sense of humor may not be in line with the vast majority, but that never has deterred him. He has always just gone about producing his sense of humor, and people who are into it are right there with him. And if you don’t like it, that’s okay. “I’m not looking for followers,” Goldthwait tells us over the phone. “I’m looking for people to discover the things I make and judge them on their individual merit.”
Most people have a life and career that consist of three acts. Bobcat has at least 5 and counting:
ACT ONE: Stand-up comedian Bobcat Goldthwait makes his way onto the scene with a bizarre mixture of surreal and ridiculous stories and stunts (from gutting a fish onstage to having his father take part in a dog act with him after his dog dies to reading a Dear John letter and weeping). He plays a character with a grating, screaming voice who has the combined traits of an innocent and shy 8 year old sharing a story in front of class and a psychopathic madman.
ACT TWO: Bobcat segues into films. This iteration of his career finds him featuring in Police Academy films, Scrooged, his first starring role in Hot to Trot, and Shakes the Clown, which he also wrote and directed. As an actor, a lot of what he does is similar to that of his stage persona, down to the voice and the overall shakiness. But with Shakes, you see a little bit behind the curtain, and see there’s much more to be had.
ACT THREE: Bobcat embarks on his anarchist “Rage Against the Talk Show” phase of his career. He goes onto talk shows and starts dismantling them and their conventions. Whether he’s lighting The Tonight Show’s couch on fire, or he’s spray painting “Paramount Sucks” on the walls of The Arsenio Hall Show, this Bobcat, still doing the voice, is stopping at nothing to be heard.
ACT FOUR: Now is when he becomes a director for T.V. He directs episodes of The Chapelle Show, Crank Yankers, The Man Show, and a T.V. movie entitled Windy City Heat. Somehow, after wreaking havoc on the sets of nearly every talk show that would have him on, he manages to go onto directing over 300 episodes of Jimmy Kimmel Live.
ACT FIVE: Finally, we’re onto Act 5. He has finally put “the voice” and the Bobcat character to rest, and is now using the voice that is all his own. This voice lends itself to movies he wrote and directed. Movies so successful, they have become staples of the festival circuit, starting with the no-budget film Sleeping Dogs Lie, which had premiered at Sundance. Now, he has been accepted into the world that long had dismissed him and he had also sort of dismissed in return, without ever changing who he is.
You can still find traces of Bobcat as he was back in the 80s, only he doesn’t play that character anymore and he has certainly evolved. His humor is as dark and as twisted as it ever was. He also still relishes in the weirdness that most people wouldn’t dare to tread into.
“A buddy of mine,” Goldthwait tells us, to demonstrate exactly where his mindset aligns, “I was reading a thing he wrote, and he jokingly mentioned that it was ‘a T.V. show that starred a ham sandwich. I thought ‘Wow, that’s a great idea for an episode.’ (Laughs). A talking ham sandwich. A buddy cop thing where the guy is about to retire and he gets a partner that’s a ham sandwich.”
So how exactly did the guy that once propelled naked from the ceiling at a Nirvana concert dressed up as baby New Year become a storyteller? “Tom Kenny was saying I probably became a storyteller because I couldn’t shriek people out as easy anymore onstage once they realized that when they came to see me it was going to be weird. The expectation was already there. I think I became a storyteller because each time, it’s a clean slate.”
This Wednesday, Bobcat Goldthwait’s newest venture, an anthology series, Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits and Monsters has its season finale. It is an anthology series, reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. But, of course, it’s Bobcat Goldthwait’s version of The Twilight Zone, which gives way to a strange hybrid of the surreal and the ridiculous.
“It’s a different time,” says Goldthwait of how something so strange made it to television in the first place. “It used to be you’d make a T.V. show and try to appeal to everyone, mass appeal. And now there’s so many shows and streaming, that I believe it’s more interesting to a network to carve out an audience as opposed to a big audience.”
Everything in the series comes with its own set of layers. Take, for instance, the second episode, where Dave Koechner plays a cars salesman who decides to run for President. During his campaign, it is discovered that Koechner is in fact a werewolf. The general public, upon seeing this, simply shrug. “Nobody’s perfect.”
That says it all right there. On the surface, what seems to be a story about a guy who becomes a werewolf reveals itself to be not that at all. It’s not about the werewolf. It’s about our reaction to a shocking and horrid revelation, and how we are just accepting of ones past and true colors. The darkness doesn’t stem from the images on the screen so much as what it says about ourselves. Boy, doesn’t this all seem relevant?
He may not be doing much stand up anymore, but so much of what he presents us with in this series feels as if it’s a bizarre continuation of his stand up. And that’s because it’s genuinely his. Every moment feels as if it’s directly out of his brain, and is his conscious point of view. Without seeing him in a single frame of the series, he is right there the entire time.
“I think [my stand up and the series] are very similar,” says Goldthwait, going off of my question of whether or not the series is a conscious continuation of his stand up. “Because you can see the stand up and go “Oh, it’s this guy acting like a weirdo.” And then the content, and it’s the same thing with this show, you might think it’s a episode about one thing, but it’s always about something else, too.”
The most obvious correlation between who Bobcat was and who he now is comes from the pilot episode of the series. This was something that he hadn’t even realized until it was pointed out by his daughter.
“It wasn’t until my daughter watched the first episode, which is about this guy that can’t escape the character he created to the point where it’s killing him,” he tells me. “It was my daughter who was like “Hey, dummy, that’s you.” But I was watching that episode and I realized that it might be that I’m not the guy who does the voice for Bubba the Bear, I might be Bubba the Bear. Because Bubba’s the one’s who mad. He was like “I was a bear, goddammit, and you made me into some kind of joke.” And that could have been me going “I was a comedian and you made me into some kind of joke.” Maybe it’s me mad at me.”
The more meta he gets about the series and the Bubba character, the more self-aware he seems to become. “I don’t know, man. It’s nice of TruTV to pay for my therapy. And then I subject everybody to it.”
He starts to break that last point down even further. “Even in my stand up, when I’m just telling stories, I’ll tell embarrassing stories about myself and put it all out there. So it’s funny if someone thinks they’re going to dig up dirt on me. It’s like “No, I kind of exposed all of my dirt.” The only dirt that’s left is that I’m very boring. I’m like Hugh Beaumont, Leave it to Beaver’s dad in real life.”
That is something that really comes across. He doesn’t seem to have that aura to him where you get the sense that he takes himself and what he does super seriously. He’s got a sense of humor about himself, and his overall career. (He has said that he is prone to wearing over-the-top hats to sort of keep himself in check and not take himself too seriously). He is usually the first to turn the joke on himself.
“I was doing an interview once,” he recalls, “and Chris Rock came in and interrupted us. And the reporter was excited. And as I was leaving, I went to say goodbye to him… It was when we were doing a lot of press with a bunch of different people… And I thought I’d say goodbye to Chris, so I interrupted his interview. And THAT reporter wasn’t nearly as excited as mine. (Laughs).”
This is who he is. Just because he’s not as much the angsty guy who was going after Paramount Studios for cancelling The Arsenio Hall Show by spray painting ‘Paramount Sucks’ on the wall doesn’t mean he’s at all ‘softened up’. When there’s something he feels the need to stand up for, he will. This was evidenced last month when he publicly went after Disney’s treatment of his friend, Guardian’s of the Galaxy director James Gunn.
“I think the danger of what’s going on is James got fired not because anybody was offended by these tweets that they didn’t know existed that were almost a decade old, that he’s already apologized for on a number of occasions. This was a hit done by radical right-wing nut jobs that post frightening things themselves, not as jokes. And this was a hit because James is outspoken about the President and the administration. So that’s the whole dangerous thing.”
Bobcat himself is clearly no stranger to controversy or getting himself into hot water. “I think as a comic, we all say things that we cringe about later or do things that we cringe about. But the fascinating thing with him is he already apologized about this stuff. And I do understand. I’m an advocate for people who have been sexually abused and I can understand people being upset. I also think this is about forgiveness and about a major corporation letting a few fringed characters deciding who they hire and fire.”
He keeps on going. There is obviously some anger in his voice, but this is more out of a place of passionate reason for what’s right than just someone ranting and raving.
“During the McCarthy hearings, were you going to be someone who ratted other people out, or were you going to be someone that stood up? What I think is fascinating is that the series goes on without James. It’s a shame that they’ll be able to find a director to come in and take the job. It’d be nice if my fellow brothers and sisters in the DGA would say ‘Hey man, we’re not going to.’ But they’ll find a scab who’s willing to do it.”
When asked whether or not Disney has removed him, upon his public suggestion, from an upcoming Disneyland attraction, Bobcat laughs. “No, but I’ll be bummed out if they don’t let me in the park anymore. I like going to the park. I guess I’ll be going in with a mustache and a fake I.D.”
There’s no better way to sum him up. Humor in the most twisted situations is what he thrives in. At a time when the world is so dark, most people are going lighter. Not Bobcat. He holds a mirror up to the darkness and shows us where we can still laugh.
The season finale of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits and Monsters premieres on truTV tomorrow at 10 EST/9 CT.