Bobcat Goldthwait is many things to many people. He was that guy from the "Police Academy" movies and the celebrated stand-up comic who lit Jay Leno's chair on fire on national television. He was fired from "Hollywood Squares" and his memorable cartoon voice has graced shows as varied as "The Tick" and "Lilo & Stitch." He's been raised up and admonished for his outlandish persona.
But for the past six years, he's been focusing almost entirely on building his career behind the scenes -- as an independent filmmaker with his own style, far removed from the studio system.
"Sleeping Dogs Lie," his 2006 feature-length film about bestiality, honesty, and relationships, was accepted into Sundance, and from there he's gone on to create a world of his own. 2009's "World's Greatest Dad," starring Robin Williams, built on "Dogs'" achingly dark, comedic yet sympathetic tone, earning him critical praise. The Village Voice said "the particular stew of midlife and pubescent despair" of a father-son relationship "has rarely been achieved so well" and the Los Angeles Times called it "unexpectedly moving."
Now Goldthwait is back with another dark, satirical tale about a guy at the end of his rope who decides to kill everyone in pop culture who pisses him off. "God Bless America," now showing in select cities, is a continuation on many of the themes Goldthwait's been exploring in his past films, and he shows no sign of slowing down.
He spoke to HuffPost about his initial move from comedy to directing, why he works apart from major studios, and why he's not afraid of his penis, among other things.
What sparked your initial career move away from stand-up?
I started directing years ago, but these last three movies -- "Sleeping Dogs Lie," "World's Greatest Dad," and "God Bless America" -- are my talking mug series. A friend recently suggested my titles all sound like coffee mugs, so the next one might be called, "I'm With Stupid." But I think what motivated me with "Sleeping Dogs Lie" was just that I wrote it and then I wanted to see if we could actually do it.
You've said your stand-up career started kind of the same way -- you just wanted to see what you could get away with. Is it the same thing?
Yeah, my goal wasn't ever to see if I could become a world famous comedian, my goal was just to see if I could do it. The motivation behind these last three movies was just: can I make this movie? Can I get it seen by people? It hasn't been part of a career game plan.
You recently wrote in Vice Magazine that you think that if people don't like what they're doing, they should quit and do what they want...
Or here's the thing: there's very little reason for you to not be expressing yourself if you have a burning desire to express yourself. Go ahead, get out of your own way and do it. Of course at the bottom of Vice thing someone's already written like "Of course it's easy for you to say, you're in show business." But I made a movie for 20 grand with a crew I found on Craigslist. I could do it for a lot less if I wanted.
Would you offer similar advice to anyone?
You just have to get out of your own way. If your goal is to be well known, thats a whole other goal -- you could achieve it lots of other ways. Go stand in line with other reality stars, be patient. But if you really want to express yourself, that is one of the awesome things about the Internet and what's going on now. You basically can just go do it.
Did you turn down a lot of reality shows yourself?
Oh, sure. There was "Celebra-cadabra," a reality show where you learn magic. "Celebrity Fear Factor." I guess if it was a live show I would have done that, because it would have been funny to put pudding in my pants and get raised up in a harness and be like, "Hey, Joe Rogan, I crapped myself!" That'd be great. But I think people still confuse me with my persona. I also get a lot of calls to do game shows and I don't really pursue that. I don't think I'm better than other people who do that, but I know I'd really be torn up if I did.
Would you take on a big studio film if they offered one to you?
I just want to keep making my own movies. I don't really pursue studio stuff. Those movies aren't made for me, even as a viewer. I have other ideas that would probably have to go through that system, but I don't imagine myself actually helming those. I'm not cut out to take notes, or to be a bully to get my vision across.
This dark, satirical style you're bringing forward isn't really present in other movies these days. At least not very often.
Not in movies, no. There's Louis CK and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or some of the stuff [Ricky] Gervais does. There are plenty of places this kind of stuff shows up, it's just not in movies. Movie comedy is trying to get teenagers. They'll make an R-rated movie and say it's for adults, and its just a bunch of penis jokes. I don't have a problem with penis jokes, I'm just not scared of my penis so I don't find it that funny. Not that I stand in front of a mirror saying that my penis is OK, that it's beautiful.
That's another movie.
Right. I notice that some mainstream critics have a problem with the movies I'm making cause they're not punchline driven. I'm not interested in "Two and a Half Men: The Movie." What's funny to me about the [films] I make is that they don't take place in any version of the real world that I'm aware of. Are you fascinated with the distractions put out in pop culture? That's what this new movie, ["God Bless America"] is all about. If you make your living reviewing 3D movies, you're probably not gonna be happy with my movie.
And you're still doing stand-up comedy even though you technically retired in 2005.
Yeah, I still do that. I just did a benefit sunday night in Arizona, just did a special. It's a downsized life I lead, but it's a creative life I lead. I don't spend too much time wondering what people make of the stuff I'm doing, I'm just making stuff I want to make.
Do you see yourself continuing to focus on films 10 years from now? Do you plan on being in it for the long haul?
You mean, will I get bored of it? No, because to me, movies are limitless -- the genres and the kinds of movies you can make. I'm only competing with the Grim Reaper now. I'm not competing with other filmmakers and other comedians.
Watch the trailer for the film: