In 1994, Bobcat Goldthwait rang in the new year by swinging naked from the top of the Oakland Coliseum, shocking a crowd gathered there to see Nirvana. If it's unlikely that Goldthwait will repeat that feat during his New Year's Eve shows at the Tampa Improv, well, a lot's changed for the comedian since then. He no longer does the manic, scratchy-voiced character that made him one of the most popular standups of the '80s. His new special is called You Don't Look the Same Either. He's also become a successful director, with two of his films accepted into Sundance. His latest, God Bless America, is a dark comedy about a man who goes on a murder spree after watching a My Super Sweet 16-esque show. In a phone interview, Goldthwait discussed his standup, his movies and the Kinks. Here are some excerpts.
You'll be down here for New Year's Eve. I've heard a story numerous times about you at a New Year's Eve show in 1994. Do you remember what I'm talking about?
Yeah, I actually rappelled nude from the roof of the Coliseum at midnight while I was emceeing, opening and performing with Nirvana on their last tour of the states. When we were on the road for New Year's, we wanted to do something special, so the band had all these extra bombs and things to go off at midnight. I thought I'd rappel nude. I think it's funny that I actually didn't mind being naked, but I still wore a hat because I didn't want people to see my bald head.
Besides obviously not doing your character anymore, how would you say your standup's evolved over the years?
Well, I think it's always kind of evolving. I think my earlier standup was just me going on stage and being very influenced by Andy Kaufman and being very weird and not really having standup at all, and just being a strange act. Then my standup was kind of nasty and angry for a long time, and now my standup is a little more of a retrospective of me talking about my life. I work hard and I try to do a good show for people, but I guess my act is always changing. People's perception of me I'm sure is a lot of people think I'm dead or think if they come see me, it's just going to be me doing my act from the '80s, which I honestly think a lot of people would prefer that.
Your movies start with a perverse set-up — bestiality in Sleeping Dogs Lie, autoerotic asphyxiation in World's Greatest Dad, murder rampages in God Bless America — to tell these moral messages. What about that appeals to you?
I don't know, I guess that's just my style. The last movie I made, I didn't really have that and I wonder why I didn't do it. It shows up in other screenplays. It really shows up in — I wrote a movie based on the Kinks album from the '70s called Schoolboys in Disgrace and I've been trying to develop that for years. It's different from my other movies — it's actually going to take a big budget and we're going to film it in England. But it's the same thing, too; there's a horrible incident at the very beginning and then we back up from there and tell a morality tale. My movies, I don't really see them as slices of life or accurate portrayals of anything that's real. I do see them as little fables.
Are you working on anything else in between that?
Yeah, I just finished a new movie called Willow Creek. It's a Sasquatch movie. We went and shot it up in Willow Creek, which is where the Patterson footage was filmed 45 years ago. It's a mixture of real elements and Bigfoot, which I've been fascinated with since I was about eight.
I just worked with Marc Maron — I directed four episodes of his new television show that'll be on IFC next year. It's just like the way I used to; I worked with Jimmy Kimmel and Dave Chappelle. I love working with comics because I like to take what they had in mind and hopefully facilitate their vision. Comics are always treated as if we're crazy or something, and I like to help guys make their shows come across.