Bobcat Goldthwait is not your average film director, and he doesn’t produce average films. Whether it’s about alcoholic clowns, ‘wanking accidents’, or performing oral sex on a dog, Bobcat refuses to be in anyway boring. With the release of the dark and bizarre World’s Greatest Dad, starring his old pal Robin Williams, we thought we’d look back on the comedy legend’s past, from actor to director, stand-up to occasional arsonist. Intrigued? We thought you might be…
Though he’s loathed to admit it, you’ll probably know Bobcat from his anarchic, high-pitched, madcap comedy role in the Police Academy series. That’s right, Zed, the somewhat disturbed street thug-turned-trainee-cop who screeched and screamed his way into your hearts / ‘people I find intensely annoying’ lists back in the ‘80s.
He’s not proud of his Police Academy days, to say the least. Talking to The Scotsman, he’s said that he looks at Police Academy as his "porn past."
"When most people are in their early twenties, there's no public record of their behaviour. I, unfortunately, have some really embarrassing DVDs to remind me that I sold out a bunch of times as a young man."
Other notable acting appearances include a starring role in the cartoonish ‘80s teen comedy One Crazy Summer (complete with Demi Moore, John Cusack and a Godzilla outfit), Whoopi Goldberg vehicle Burglar, investment-broker-meets-talking-horse classic Hot To Trot, and, of course, Scrooged, where Bill Murray blows raspberries on his belly and tickles him mercilessly.
Then there’s his voice work (and with a wail like that, it’s easy to understand why), which has seen his vocal talents appear in the likes of Lilo And Stitch, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and the undeniably super-awesome The Tick, as well as a cameo on The Simpsons back in 1989.
As for his own directorial efforts, his only starring role is in Shakes The Clown, playing the title character, an alcoholic clown framed for murder. But more on that later.
Bobcat is a stand-up comedian like no other, blending often disturbing, pitch-black comedy ("If you ever see me getting beaten by the police, put down the video camera and come help me”) with political satire (“America's one of the finest countries anyone ever stole”), all with a delivery that resembles a man having a high pitch mental breakdown before your very eyes.
In his time, Bobcat’s had two stand-up specials, one called ‘An Evening with Bobcat Goldthwait: Share The Warmth’ and the other ‘Bob Goldthwait: Is He Like That All the Time?’, as well as a couple of CDs, including the memorably titled ‘I Don't Mean to Insult You, but You Look Like Bobcat Goldthwait’.
Bobcat started his route into stand-up comedy at an early age, romping around clubs as a precocious 15 year old and even managing to guest on The Late Show With David Letterman when he was just 19. Later in his career he opened for none other than Nirvana on their 1993 tour. You may want to read that sentence again, but really, it’s genuinely true.
It was on the comedy circuit that he met his close friend Robin Williams, with them occasionally sharing the bill together at gigs, Bobcat performing as ‘Jack Cheese’, the headliner to Williams’ ‘Marty Fromage’ – a name he reused on the credits of Shakes The Clown after his brief cameo as a mime called Jerry.
But as you might expect, Bobcat’s delivery was often the breaking point for many would-be fans. Some appearances live would consist mainly of ‘noises’, including one memorable Comedy Relief performance when he shouted a lot, insulted himself, then had a shower live on stage.
Since his ‘80s / early ‘90s heyday, he’s toned down the character quite a bit – not using his ‘actual’ voice, but sounding ever-so-slightly deranged. Chances are you might be able to catch on the occasional stand-up gig – if he doesn’t ‘retire’ again, that is…
In 1994, Bobcat did something that he’ll never forget for the rest of his life. He set fire to Jay Leno’s couch, live on air. It was only a little fire, and it barely lasted any time at all, but it earned him a $2700 fine, as well as the cost for a replace chair (nearly $700).
On top of that, he also had to make a series of public service announcements about how setting light to things, is, you know, a bad idea, as well as dealing with the natural fallout of committing arson on national television.
The sad truth of it is that he was only booked on The Tonight Show as a departing middle-finger from Joan Rivers, who was leaving the programme for pastures new, and really wanted to wind up Jay Leno, who knew that Bobcat’s anarchic wailing wouldn’t be, shall we say, to everyone’s tastes. As for the fire? We don’t think even Bobcat saw that one coming.
But it wasn’t his only notable talk show appearance, after one occasion on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 1993 when he threw furniture around the set, dashed around screaming, and ran into the audience.
Since those giddy days of flaming settees and flying chairs, Bobcat’s relationship with talk shows has changed somewhat, with him directing Jimmy Kimmel Live for 267 episodes between 2004 and 2007 before leaving to take up his true passion, directing films.
Bobcat’s first film was Shakes The Clown back in 1991, a dark and deranged satire of the comedy circuit through the medium of a lecherous, alcoholic children’s entertainer – a cult favourite now, but looking back on it, Bobcat has a few regrets.
“I was watching [Shakes] with my daughter, and she’s like ‘Dad, you’re a really bad actor,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I am!’” he told grouchoreviews.com. “I watch that movie, and I’m like ‘What the hell were we thinking?’, you know?”
It’s not all bad, not by any means – and after all, Scorsese has said that he likes Shakes the Clown: “Haven't you heard? It's the Citizen Kane of Alcoholic Clown Movies."
It was 12 years later in 2003 that Bobcat got back in the film director’s chair, for a TV movie called Windy City Heat about a man who is duped into taking part in a fake celebrity show. This was followed up by the critically acclaimed Sundance hit Sleeping Dogs Lie in 2006 – a movie about, you guessed it, a woman who performs oral sex on a dog. Wait, what?
Despite the bizarre and frankly ludicrous set-up, it’s actually a heartfelt, clever, gentle film, shot for next to nothing (Bobcat had to sell a guitar Robin Williams had given him to cover the costs), and a real gem, well worth checking out next time you want to watch a film about performing oral sex on dogs.
His latest could be described as being even weirder than Sleeping Dogs Lie, what with it telling the story of a frustrated unpublished novelist called Lance (Williams) who fakes a suicide note for his son after he dies in a, ahem, ‘wanking accident’.
Despite his son being a total arsehole (and we don’t use those words lightly), the swelling up of fake grief turns his son into a saint, and Lance begins to write his ‘diaries’ with, as they say, really bizarre consequences.
It’s fantastic to see Williams playing another dark, twisted role, another reminder that he’s not all Flubber and Patch Adams, and Goldthwait manages to zig-zag the story cleverly to keep you on your toes. Still, not one for Date Night. That we promise you.