Goodnights Comedy Club, Raleigh
Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait first rose to fame in the 1980s, when his screechy-voiced stand-up persona crossed over in the Police Academy movie franchise. Thirty years later, he’s settled into a long tenure on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and branched out into filmmaking, but he’s still in the road-comedy game, and he’s got four shows at Goodnights this week. (He’s also recording part of a new comedy special with Dana Gould at The Mothlight in Asheville while he’s around.)
We recently reached him by phone in LA and talked about some of the most memorable moments of a long career, from sparring with Jerry Seinfeld to his long friendship with Robin Williams.
THAT TIME HE BEEFED WITH SEINFELD
In the current season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld lambasts a comedian that is understood to be Goldthwait (they beeped out his name) to guest Bridget Everett, a close friend of Goldthwait, who, in the 1990s, used to make fun of the banality of Seinfeld’s humor in his stand-up.
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: In his defense, I have said mean things about the guy. But he had promoted the pilot I had worked on with Bridget on Twitter, so I thought we were all good and didn’t have a beef. I guess it goes to show that you can be very successful and very rich and still be really unhappy.
I really felt bad for Bridget because he was trying to make her feel bad for being my friend. He has all the right to say he doesn’t like me. I think he’s a little crazy to spend that much time on his joke bashing me in the comedic sense.
But I feel that the weird part is when he confuses the love from an audience with self-worth. I mean, I’m happy that crowds like me, it’s nice that I can have a good crowd, but I don’t confuse that with whether I’m a good person.
“I met Kurt [Cobain] because he wanted to interview me for a college radio station in Ann Arbor because he was a fan of my stand-up, which reminds me of how Jimi Hendrix really liked Buddy Hackett.”
He’s talking about my act that I probably haven’t done in 20 years. And he still does the same act from 30 years ago, and that’s the filter he’s judging me through.
Yeah, it’s funny, after all these years he finally has an opinion about something, and it is me.
His question was whether I’m funny or not, and comedy is subjective. Some people find Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, and George Carlin funny, and other people find it funny to discuss where the socks go in the dryer.
It is like any kind of art. Is Michael Bolton not a good musician? You know, Michael Bolton worked for a lot of people. And you can’t take that away from anyone who connects with someone on an emotional level. But so does Iggy Pop. And I’m just saying, I’m inclined to go to an Iggy Pop concert.
THAT TIME HE GOT NAKED WITH NIRVANA
Goldthwait opened for Nirvana on their last North American tour—the one on which he famously rappelled nude from the roof of the Oakland Coliseum.
I emceed, and if the crowd didn’t hate me, I’d do time. Actually, if they did hate me, I’d still do time. Before they broke [into the mainstream,] I met Kurt because he wanted to interview me for a college radio station in Ann Arbor because he was a fan of my stand-up, which reminds me of how Jimi Hendrix really liked Buddy Hackett. He liked my stand-up, and he would listen to my album over and over. When I met [Dave Grohl], he was complaining about that.
THAT TIME HE WORKED WITH JUDD APATOW
Goldthwait is currently working with Apatow on a feature-film version of Call Me Lucky, Goldthwait’s documentary about comedian Barry Crimmins.
It reminds of my relationship with Robin Williams, because Judd talks about my work and acts like we are peers, and the reality of it is, we’re not. Where my movies make hundreds of dollars, his make millions.
It is a biopic trying to tell Barry’s story. It’s a hell of a story. He was a bar comic who was a political satirist, and late in life he disclosed about his child abuse.
“I don’t mean to take anything away from people who have lost people to depression or drugs, but that wasn’t Robin [Williams]’s story.”
When he was looking for other survivors in the early ‘90s, he was on AOL and they were allowing child pornography to be exchanged. AOL turned a deaf ear to it, and Barry pointed it out and ended up on the floor of the Senate, taking on AOL. It is like a Frank Capra story but from a very unlikely person.
It is really sweet and nice of Judd to work on this piece. I’ve known him since he was a PA on Comic Relief. We worked on The Larry Sanders Show together. He was drawn to the Barry story, and it was something both of us believed in and wanted to do.
THAT TIME HE WAS FRIENDS WITH ROBIN WILLIAMS
Goldthwait and Williams performed and collaborated on countless shows. Goldthwait wrote and directed the film World’s Greatest Dad, which starred the late actor.
We were really close friends, and I think we were because he could trust me to be himself around me. I keep that to myself because he is gone.
One thing about Robin that I do want people to know was that he was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s, and he had something called Lewy body dementia, which is very aggressive, much more aggressive than Alzheimer’s.
Him taking his life was not a result of being depressed or the effects of alcohol or drugs. He was sober most of the time for the 30 years I knew him. It was really that his brain gave him misinformation. I don’t mean to take anything away from people who have lost people to depression or drugs, but that wasn’t Robin’s story.
If any good comes out of this horrible thing, it is that maybe people will be more aware of Lewy body dementia, and it would be great if people were a little bit more kind with someone’s suicide and not just call them weak or judge them.
If you have a disease that tells you that it is OK to walk across the street when you think it’s a red, but it’s a green light, that’s where my friend was.
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