The multi-hyphenate comic talks about his new film, the endangered truth, and Diablo Cody cramming it
Published: September 28, 2011
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Known as a somewhat choleric and disturbing standup comic, writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is an ’80s-Hollywood survivor, as well as the man behind the legendary Shakes the Clown, the extended prankumentary Windy City Heat, and the films Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad (which screened at the 2009 Maryland Film Festival). Goldthwait talked to us by phone in advance of his appearance at Baltimore’s Comedy Factory, shortly after finishing post-production work on his latest film, the dark comedy God Bless America.
City Paper : Baltimore needs as much comedy as it can get, and you’re gonna be here for three nights, a serious commitment to helping Baltimore.
Bobcat Goldthwait: When I was at the Maryland Film Festival, I think it was two years ago, I stayed for a while there, not just when my movie was playing. I really enjoyed that festival. It really is a great festival. A lot of the film festivals you go to, you don’t actually see movies, and when I was there my daughter and I saw a bunch of movies and we had a great time. I just came from the Toronto Film Festival and that’s like that too, with the regular jerk going out to the movie. Sure, the big high-profile premieres have some pretentious twats going to it, but the rest of it is just a lot of regular films, which I like.
CP : And they’re super nice in Toronto, the Canadians.
BG: Well, don’t fall for it. As soon as you leave, they say stuff about you—they’re just nice to your face. It’s an act, it’s the sleeping giant, they might come down and take over.
CP : So you were in Toronto with your new movie.
BG: Yeah, God Bless America.
CP : So the film got bought. The function of a film festival is for somebody like you to sell the film to somebody?
BG: Lots of movies play festivals and they already have distributors, but when I go to the festivals, usually at the beginning I don’t have a distributor.
CP : So, you’re good now?
BG: (laughs) Yeah, the folks who put the money up are good. That’s the very least, because I don’t want people to lose money because they believe in me and let me keep making movies.
CP : So you got money from some people along with probably some of your own dough.
BG: Three movies ago I used my own money, but I haven’t used my own money in the past two. People always think I financed Shakes the Clown, which is not true at all, I don’t know where this stuff gets started, and that’s kind of addressed in the new movie, where when people just say something it’s the truth now. There’s no more fact-checking because it doesn’t matter, it’s the instantaneous nature of the media, and the movie doesn’t blame the media, it blames people who make it their life and make it their distraction. That sounds very pretentious coming from a guy who was in Police Academy, but I just think we’ve become a really nasty culture.
CP : Speaking as somebody who works at a newspaper, we definitely have a fact-checking engine here.
BG: Yeah, and that’s what I find really frustrating, if a paper says something they can be held accountable for it. If somebody tweets something, the well’s already poisoned, and it doesn’t matter what’s the truth, it’s whatever’s the most exciting. One of the characters in the movie says that, a shocking comment takes the place of the truth.
CP : There are people who make it their business to shoot down bullshit on the internet and to stop people who are echo-chambering bad information.
BG: I think, though, in the world of—for lack of a better term—pop news, it doesn’t matter, you get that “fact” out so you can post it or say it on the radio, and there is no repercussion, no accountability, and I find that really frustrating. Well, not even frustrating, it’s never (laughs) about any actual real news.
CP : (pause)
BG: This has become a stiff and boring interview. (laughs)
CP : Tell me about the movie, which I have not seen.
BG: Well, it is a comedy, you know, about a guy on the verge of committing suicide, and he’s watching My Super Sweet 16, and instead of committing suicide he drives 400 miles and kills the girl on that show and her classmate’s like, “Did you kill Chloe?” And he doesn’t say anything and she’s like, “Awesome,” and they get in a car and they just start offing people. Basically, Frank, the guy, is just killing people he finds that aren’t nice, and the girl would just prefer to kill everybody because she is a teenage psychopath. [Juno screenwriter] Diablo Cody’s mad that she’s mentioned in the movie, and it’s so crazy. Do you really think a 16-year-old psychopath would sit down and go, “Oh great, Juno’s on”? So I guess all of her characters, apparently, in her movies always say things that she believes.
CP : They all talk her talk.
BG: That would make sense then—that’s why all her characters sound exactly the same because they only say stuff the way she talks, I guess. So, she’s upset with that teenage girl. Diablo Cody, a stripper who suffers from too much self-esteem.
CP : So she’s upset with Bobcat Goldthwait?
BG: Yeah, she hasn’t seen the movie, but she’s upset. She’s blogging about it and stuff.
CP : She’s on Twitter.
BG: I can use your paper. I’ll give my official statement back. “Dear Diablo Cody, cram it.” (laughs)
CP : All right, I’m gonna put that on the paper’s Twitter. That will be an official pre-excerpt of your interview.
BG: Please, you do it. “Dear (laughs) Diablo Cody, cram it.” (laughs)
CP : Consider it done. As soon as we get off the phone, that’ll be a “tease.” We’ll get lotsa clicks.
BG: (laughs) Well, you got a “scoop.”
CP : I got a scoop. That’s what it’s all about in the newspaper business, it’s to get a scoop.
BG: (laughs) How long have you been working at the paper?
CP : Twenty-two years.
BG: Wow, so you’ve seen all this change. It’s really strange. I’ll sound like an old fart now, but when I started doing comedy, when I went on the road, I would go and do the local newspaper interview and do a couple wacky morning radio shows and that’s all it took to sell tickets, and now a comedian is kinda reduced to turning his life into a reality show. Like, I’m supposed to tweet all day, and I’m supposed to have a podcast, I’m supposed to tell everyone to follow me on Facebook. I just like the idea of being a comedian, and you do a show, and I don’t feel like giving away my life. I actually—despite my body of work and some of the things I’ve done—do have a little bit of shame left.
CP : You could get somebody to do your tweets for you.
BG: I know, it’s just like another job. I don’t even promote the movies I make, I don’t believe—well, enough. I’m just interested in making stuff and not . . . (laughs) I should probably spend more time trying to promote my movies.
CP : But you get to go on Letterman or Leno, or anybody, Kimmel?
BG: It’s been a long time. I should do that, that would be a good idea. I’ll do that.
CP : You got Craig Ferguson and Jimmy what’s-his-name now too.
BG: (laughs) Jimmy Fallon?
CP : Jimmy Fallon, yeah, Fallon. He’s reaching the youth.
BG: (laughs) He talks to the youth, literally.
CP : All the college crap, all the college games.
BG: They play games on that show. They play, like, beer pong. (laughs)
CP : Exactly, everything on that show’s an extension of beer pong.
BG: It’s really just Beat the Clock. (laughs) Yeah, I don’t know where I fit in anymore, which is all right, I guess.
CP : You should totally in Baltimore get on some wacky morning radio. They still have it.
BG: Oh good, at least I know how to do that. (laughs) I know how to be on those shows.
CP : This Q&A is gonna go into our Big Books Issue, so have you read anything interesting lately or are you planning on writing anything?
BG: It’s terrible that I haven’t read anything right now, but in my defense, I was editing the movie pretty much around the clock, so I don’t have anything, and I don’t have a (cackles) book on parenting coming out.
CP : You should, that sounds perfect.
BG: I’m gonna have a book about, um, Eat Through the Pain, is the one I wanna do, (laughs) about how eating through the pain is important.
The interview dissolves into desultory talk about ending the interview, cats, men of a certain age with diminishing testosterone keeping cats and small dogs as animal companions, Mickey Rourke’s small dogs, Goldthwait theorizing Rourke eats the dogs, Goldthwait realizing he has another interview waiting, and signing off with “Diablo Cody, cram it.” (laughs)
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