Bobcat Goldthwait went from being an established but low-flying player in the comedy world to being a creator in his own right.
Back in the ’80s, Goldthwait tickled stand-up fans with his high, raspy voice and starred in the last four installments of the “Police Academy” saga. In 1991, his harrowing performance as the sauced antihero of the comedy, “Shakes the Clown” gave moviegoers a few weird dreams.
The last few movies Goldthwait has written and directed are leaps and bounds above the rest of his work, and they’re some of the most absurd comments on American culture to come out in recent memory. “God Bless America” is the latest, joining “Sleeping Dogs Lie” and “World’s Greatest Dad.”
These movies, especially “God Bless America,” lack a certain degree of subtlety — at times, the message is a horse that we have to watch Goldthwait beat long past its death. What the movies lack in subtlety, they more than make up for with an honest voice and sincere wisecracks.
A&E talked to Goldthwait about his new movie and all that goes with it — reality TV, the viciousness of American culture and Goldthwait’s exes.
So what’s been on your mind lately?
I’ve been busy promoting the new motion picture. So what’s been on my mind is that it’s strange — because no matter how much press you do, people are going to go to your movie or not.
Tell me what the plot of your new movie is.
The plot of the movie is that there’s a guy who’s suicidal — he’s diagnosed with a brain tumor, and his life is horrible, and he’s about to commit suicide and he’s watching “My Super Sweet 16.” So then he drives 400 miles, and he shoots that girl in the face. And then a classmate sees it and says, “Did you kill Chloe?” And he doesn’t say anything and she’s like, “Awesome.” So she convinces him to not commit suicide because there are so many more people that should get killed.
Where’d you get that idea from?
I got it from when I was in London. There was a “My Super Sweet 16” marathon on. And it really depressed me — the idea that our ambassadors of goodwill to Europe were horrible children on an MTV reality show.
And before watching that marathon, had you watched a lot of reality TV?
I have to say, I have watched my share. But around the same time I wrote the screenplay, I kind of stopped watching it. I just said, “I’m out.” I do occasionally slip and I watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” only because I’m rooting for Sharon Needles to win.
Oh definitely. Do you ever watch the Real Housewives?
I’d love to tell you that I’m more evolved, and I haven’t watched those, but sure. You know, that was part of me saying no to the whole thing. A classic example of such a weird distraction — watching these horrible people. And you know, I think I’ve been married to enough of them. You know, those women that screw up their faces with plastic surgery.
Man, so this just got personal. Are you saying that your movie is a comment on the women you’ve been with?
No, no. That was the movie before.
What’s different about [“God Bless America,” as opposed to “World’s Greatest Dad”]?
Well, that movie, I thought, was kind of hopeful. And this movie more puts it back on all of the laughs, and it’s kind of a big, “What the [expletive]? Where are we going as people?”
Yeah, the title of the film makes it seem like it’s a comment on America as a whole. Do you feel that way?
Yeah, the way the movie and the trailer are set up, it does seem like it just targets reality shows. But it also targets a lot of examples, broad examples, of how we’ve become really vicious and nasty as a culture. So, yeah, it is about America.
The original screenplay was 187 pages because Frank and Roxy killed a lot more people. But in order for me to make the movie, I had to trim back about 80 pages. And also, it just got a little redundant.
The people that get killed in the movie, they’re not really people I have an axe to grind with. I was just trying to use examples of how mean people have become. Like the Westboro Baptist people. There is a Westboro Baptist-type religious group in the movie that may or may not get shot and run over with a Camaro. But I really don’t have that kind of anger toward them, I just think they’re a perfect example of people doing anything to be famous — they don’t have anything to with the Bible or God or religion.
They use the Bible the same way Kim Kardashian uses her ass.
So we’re supposed to be sympathetic to the main characters [who are killing people], right? They’re not the vicious ones?
Well, they are. You know, they’re horrible people doing horrible things. I hope the comedy comes out of the fact that you start empathizing with these people at the beginning of the movie as they’re doing this shocking thing. I mean, the movie is a comedy.
The problem with, let’s say, if you make fun of Snooki in a movie, you’re still giving her a wink. You’re still saying, “It’s okay.” Like, in the new “Three Stooges” movie, she has a cameo, and they poke in her in the eye.
My movie would just shoot her in the face. I don’t want any winking. I don’t dislike these people, but I do dislike our appetite for them.
If you had it your way, would reality TV still be on TV? Or would it be a whole different animal?
I think it would still be on television but it wouldn’t occupy so much of our conversation. There’s so much, my wife calls them “non-versations,” where people talk about this week’s version of Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen.
To you, what’s the worst problem in America?
The worst problem in America to me is probably apathy.
What do we have going for us?
Oh, a lot. I’m not that bitter. I do think people sometime get the wrong message.
The movie’s a satire about thinning the herd. If I had given up totally on America, [Roxy and Frank] would have gotten a dirty bomb and blown up a couple of cities.
What scares me is the “us vs. them” mentality that’s creeped its way into everything, like politics and even sports. And even if you’re a fan of a band or a comedian, you can only like that guy or this woman.
If you believe you’re a conservative, you believe that you’re a true patriot and that other people aren’t. That’s insane, that a liberal can’t be a patriot, that you’re a bad person.
Everybody’s making everybody into the Antichrist, instead of having logical discussions about solutions. And that’s what the movie’s about: we’ve become very hostile.
Folks from the far right can be very nasty and they go unchecked because progressives — they may be witty on the level of Bill Maher or Jon Stewart — but I kind of got down to their level.
So do you think that your background as a stand-up comic affects the way you approach movies?
On the day when we’re filming, I get an idea of what’s working and what’s not. So I’m able to move on a little faster than most people. That’s definitely from being a stand-up comedian, and from the years I was directing [Jimmy] Kimmel — it was a somewhat live broadcast, so that teaches you to make decisions fast on your feet.
Cool, thanks. Is there anything I haven’t asked about?
Well, I love Minnesota. It’s one of my favorite places. It reminds me of where I grew up, minus the self-loathing. Any place where there’s a lot of lakes, and my body type is average, I’m really comfortable.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
When UMN students plan for a vacation, having trip cancellation travel insurance is a worthwhile commodity to check out.
Minneapolis Used Cars
Give back to the Minnesota community with a boat donation at boat4causes.org.
If you have been involved in a car accident call a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer for a free consultation.