Comedian-turned-filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait’s movies are by all accounts edgy, just like his brand of standup comedy that first brought him recognition. It’s therefore no surprise that the Provincetown International Film Festival (PIFF) named him this year’s “Filmmaker on the Edge.”
The “Police Academy” star made his feature debut with “Shakes the Clown,” a twisted comedy that centers on a party clown who spends his free days getting wasted. “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” his sophomore film, is a comedy about a woman whose life is thrown into turmoil after she confesses to her fiancé that she once gave a blowjob to a dog. With “World’s Greatest Dad,” Goldthwait sent up the feel-good comedy genre with a redemptive tale of a father (Robin Williams) who finds his voice after his son dies of autoerotic asphyxiation. His hero in “God Bless America” at one point shoots a baby with a shotgun. Goldthwait’s latest film, the documentary “Call Me Lucky,” is no exception. It profiles influential comedian Barry Crimmins, a rage-fueled genius with a shocking past.
As is tradition at PIFF, resident artist (and fellow “edgy” filmmaker) John Waters sat down with the recipient of the annual Filmmaker on the Edge Award for an informal discussion in front of a live audience. Past honorees include David Cronenberg, Harmony Korine, Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Mary Harron, Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant. Below are the highlights from his chat with Goldthwait.
Why Goldthwait continues to do standup.
“I continue to do standup because there’s a connection with a live audience — there are skills that you do learn as a standup comedian that help you on a set,” Goldthwait said. He then joked, “I ran out of money, John. That’s why I do standup. My movies make hundreds of dollars, John. Hundreds.”
Why Goldthwait loves John Waters.
“I might be your only fan that never saw the ‘Police Academy’ movies,” Waters said at one point. “That’s why I love you John,” Goldthwait responded.
Goldthwait is loyal to his fans.
“I have a tiny fanbase, and if you do like the movies I make, you are directly responsible for me making movies.”
“I don’t find movies shocking,” Goldthwait admitted. He then recounted his first exposure to Waters’ work at 12 years old in Syracuse, New York, where Goldthwait grew up. “I was at the local art house and there was this poster for ‘Pink Flamingos.’ I didn’t smirk, I didn’t laugh, I just went, ‘Wow, that lady looks really cool.'”
The MPAA didn’t have a problem with the dog blowjob in “Sleeping Dogs Lie.”
“The dog blowjob was tastefully done, off camera. I had bigger problems with the baby that got shot with a shotgun in ‘God Bless America.’ In my defense, that baby was an asshole. You can’t shoot a baby in your movie, even if it’s a fantasy.”
Goldthwait’s not a fan of producer’s notes.
“I got two notes when I made ‘Sleeping Dogs Lie.’ I got a note saying: ‘Could she not blow the dog, but just give the dog a hand job’… A producer gave me a bunch of notes. I was in the editing bay; I put peanut butter on the note. Then I let the dog eat the note and I took a picture and sent to him saying, ‘I got your notes. They’re delicious.'”
Goldthwait writes his movies with the ending in mind.
“I usually come up with the theme,” Goldthwait said when asked by Waters about his writing process. “‘What do I want to say at the end of the movie?’ Then these other things that happen are just the other things that fit in movies.”
Goldthwait didn’t write “World’s Greatest Dad” with his friend, Robin Williams, in mind.
“If I was writing a movie for Robin, I would have stayed away from him playing an English teacher. I think he tackled that already pretty well.”
Goldthwait doesn’t think his movies are shocking.
“I think my movies are very sentimental. I know they sound very shocking. ‘God Bless America’: It’s a violent movie about kindness is what I like to say at the end of the day.”
Goldthwait was nervous to work with Williams, despite their close bond.
“Working with Robin, the day before we went to work, even though we’ve been friends since I was 19, I kind of got freaked out, like, ‘Is he going to listen to me?’ Like, ‘I have an Academy Award and you’re hot to trot.’ But that wasn’t the case at all.”
Goldthwait toured with Kurt Cobain.
“I knew Kurt. He liked my standup comedy and I met them [Nirvana] before they were famous. He interviewed me on a college radio station. Whenever people hear that Kurt Cobain was a fan of my standup, it’s like hearing Jimi Hendrix loved Buddy Hackett or something.”
What makes Goldthwait really angry…
“These people can fuck right off… They’ll come to me and they’ll go, ‘Oh, Robin Williams was your friend? It’s been really hard on me.’ Yeah, sorry you’ve lost a fucking genie.”
Goldthwait doesn’t think depression led to Williams’ suicide.
“I’m not a doctor, but Robin’s coronary report came back and he had something called Lewy Body Dementia. It affected his perception of reality. My friend got sick and that’s how he died. That’s just my personal feeling. People will come up to me and say, ‘Did he ever talk to you about suicide?’ We’re comedians. We talk about suicide every day. Sometimes we talk about other shit. The depression didn’t kill him.”
Williams pushed Goldthwait to make his first documentary.
Goldthwait revealed that he was going to initially make a narrative film about Barry Crimmins’ life. “I thought someone would play him; I was having a difficult time with that. Robin was like, ‘Well, you should make a doc.’ He was a fan of Barry and knew his story. Robin actually gave me the initial funding that got me started on the film.”
Goldthwait biggest competitor…
“I just want to keep making movies. Recently during an interview, someone asked me, ‘As a movie maker, who are you competing with?’ I was like, ‘I’m competing more with the grim fucking reaper than other guys who make movies.’ I just want to make as many as I can.”
It’s unlikely Goldthwait will ever act again.
“I choose not to be in front of the camera. Sometimes I do get offered parts, but I really like just making movies and telling stories.”