Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait Plays Not My Job

May 11, 2012
Originally published on May 12, 2012 9:25 am

Some people have sick and twisted ideas and end up in jail. Some people have sick and twisted ideas and end up making great, funny, twisted movies. This week's Not My Job guest — comedian, writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait — is thankfully one of the latter. His latest movie is a black comedy called God Bless America.

Goldthwait is known for his unique speaking voice, so we've invited him to play a game called "They call me the Velvet Kasell." Three questions about performers — like our very own Carl Kasell — who are known for their smooth, sultry voices.

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And now, the game where we ask people who've done really remarkable things about things they never had time to remark on. Some people have sick and twisted ideas and end up in jail. Some people have sick and twisted ideas and end up making great, funny, sick and twisted movies.

Comedian, writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait is thankfully one of the latter. His new movie is "God Bless America." It opens this weekend. Bobcat, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Oh, thanks for having me on.

SAGAL: It's a great pleasure.


GOLDTHWAIT: I have to make a correction there.

SAGAL: Please do.

GOLDTHWAIT: I actually have spent some time in the hoosgow.

SAGAL: Really, you were in jail?


SAGAL: Sure, he says.


SAGAL: Like this happens to everybody. What happened?

GOLDTHWAIT: Well, I've gone to the pokey on a number of times.

SAGAL: Do you call it the pokey when you're there?

GOLDTHWAIT: Well, yes. I try not to work blue, but there's a reason why they call it the pokey.

SAGAL: I understand.


SAGAL: And what was the occasion for your incarceration, as we say on public radio?

GOLDTHWAIT: A lot of different dopey things, mostly when I was a teenager, drinking too much and then deciding to break in the county auditorium to make popcorn and things like that. Didn't really command a lot of respect on the cell block when you're in for popcorn theft.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: I killed two guys. What'd you do?

GOLDTHWAIT: I stole popcorn.


SAGAL: You know, usually when I meet comedians, I'm assuming that they were the quiet, shy kids who got attention by being funny. You don't strike me as being one of those kids.

GOLDTHWAIT: No, I wasn't like - you know, I didn't have that nerd rage.

SAGAL: Yeah. You had rage-rage.

GOLDTHWAIT: I had rage-rage.


GOLDTHWAIT: No, I actually was the homecoming king, which really...

SAGAL: You're kidding me.



SAGAL: Now this was in Syracuse, New York. Is that right?

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah. That gives you an idea of how athletic and handsome my high school was.


SAGAL: Was this an ironic homecoming king? Or you're like seriously - it's like, oh, we'll nominate Bobcat. That'll be great. Or was it, like, no, he's cool, he's the captain of the football team. We look up to him, he's the homecoming king.

GOLDTHWAIT: Well I never thought of it that way.


GOLDTHWAIT: That explains a whole lot. I was wondering what all that pig's blood was on me that night.


SAGAL: No, you were the homecoming king. So were you, like, a football player, a high school...

GOLDTHWAIT: No, no, no, I wasn't. But I guess I was popular, and I also went to high school and grammar school with Tom Kenny, who later on went on to become Spongebob Squarepants. I don't want to name drop, but...



SAGAL: You know, when I first started seeing you in movies and stuff in the 80s, you have this incredibly loud persona.


SAGAL: This sort of almost, you know, manic guy and I'm wondering how close that was or I guess still is to who you really are?

GOLDTHWAIT: No, I think, like, in real life, I'm actually quiet and I mumble a lot. But that's not very lucrative.



GOLDTHWAIT: So I just amped it all up. You know, I used to direct the Jimmy Kimmel show.

SAGAL: Yeah.

GOLDTHWAIT: You know, I was actually the guy in the booth, you know, going ready, camera one, camera one, ready two, two. But I think people really thought I was going to be in there going rahhh, ready one.


SAGAL: That would have been great.

GOLDTHWAIT: I've noticed recently that my impression of me doesn't sound like me.

SAGAL: Really?



DICKINSON: But you know what's really weird, I have never heard you talk any way other than your onstage thing that you do. I didn't even know that you had like a regular voice.


GOLDTHWAIT: Well, it's a scam.


DICKINSON: I like it.

GOLDTHWAIT: Oh thank you.

DICKINSON: Keep it going.

GOLDTHWAIT: I feel bad, now I have to kill you.


GOLDTHWAIT: I'm trying to keep this under, all hush, hush.


SAGAL: Where did that guy come from?

GOLDTHWAIT: Well, it was the 80s and there was a lot of people - you know, everybody got assigned a wacky persona. So just to kind of play into - you know, my early standup was just like me going onstage and I would read a real Dear John letter I got, while I was trying to do observational humor.

SAGAL: Wait a minute, so you'd come out and you'd started doing observational...

GOLDTHWAIT: I'd go, hey, thank you, it feels really good to be here, and then just start crying and then explain that it doesn't really feel good to be here.


GOLDTHWAIT: That this girl Lisa sent me - I shouldn't out that, but she actually did send me a Dear John letter.


SAGAL: So you would go out and you would read an actual Dear John letter that you had gotten from your actual, by that point, ex-girlfriend.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah. And then I was crying and through the tears I would go, "hey, how come women go the bathroom in pairs?"


GOLDTHWAIT: And then be like my wife is so fat. And the crowd: how fat is she? I just told you I don't even have a girlfriend. I don't have a wife.


GOLDTHWAIT: It was very deconstructive.

SAGAL: It really was. Were you doing this in your like Bobcat persona? So you're like my wife...

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, I guess it was. You know, I always just felt more comfortable just kind of hiding behind a character than being myself onstage. You know, my heroes were always people like Andy Kaufman and Groucho Marx and stuff, you know people who didn't really go out of their way to say "hey, I'm just like you."


SAGAL: They're, like, I'm nothing like you at all.


MO ROCCA: You sound really comfortable right now.

GOLDTHWAIT: Oh, I'm very comfortable. I'm actually sitting in jell-o.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: It's a very comforting feeling.

ROCCA: It's not as comfortable as pudding but all right.

SAGAL: So you wrote and directed your first movie in the 90s, with "Shakes the Clown." Am I right?

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, my fine alcoholic clown movie.

SAGAL: I've heard it called the greatest alcoholic clown movie ever made.

GOLDTHWAIT: Well the actual quote is, and I don't want to too my own horn, but it was called the Citizen Kane or alcohol clown movies.



SAGAL: So the clowns in this movie don't take off their makeup and go home. They're still clowns. They live in the clown ghetto. They go to the clown bars. They drink clown drinks and they get clown drunk.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah. But I mean, they did take their makeup off occasionally. I mean, the first time you see me I only have half my makeup on, because I'm waking up after having a one-night stand with Florence Henderson.


SAGAL: How often has that happened?

GOLDTHWAIT: I don't know, man. I got to tell you, I just wrote it in. That wasn't even going to be the opening. But the idea that I could run around with Mrs. Brady.


SAGAL: So you write it in. It's like, you know, Shakes wake up, he's bleary-eyed. He looks over, next to him in the bed is Florence Henderson. You write that down.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, I mean but, you know, I didn't think I could get Florence Henderson.

SAGAL: And so how did you get Florence Henderson to do the scene?

GOLDTHWAIT: Well, she's pretty randy in real life.



GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, yeah. She actually said could I put some clown makeup on my breast? And I was like, well, it's not my Wesson Oil contract flying out the window.



SAGAL: So you've gone on to have a remarkable career as an independent filmmaker. And your latest movie, "God Bless America," opens this weekend. I'm lucky enough to have seen it. The plot basically is a guy who gets fed up with American society and decides, for a variety of reasons, to kill everybody who annoys him.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, but it's not really just everybody that annoys him. But Frank, the character Frank, is actually, you know, trying to kill people who aren't nice.

SAGAL: Right.

GOLDTHWAIT: It's not really just - it's not a personal agenda. It's more just people he thinks aren't nice. I mean he's - the character is played by Joel Murray. He's depressed. He gets fired. He gets diagnosed with a brain tumor. No, wait, it gets funnier.


GOLDTHWAIT: And then he's watching a show that's very similar to "My Super Sweet 16."

SAGAL: Right, the MTV reality show.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah. And then instead of committing suicide, he actually drives 400 miles and he shoots that girl from "My Super Sweet 16." Spoiler alert: I had that backwards. I don't know how to do that yet.


SAGAL: I mean, I have to ask you, I know it's really hard to get movies made these days.


SAGAL: There's less funding. And this movie seems so utterly - what's the word - un-commercial.


SAGAL: I'm going to make a movie in which a guy and a young girl go around and shoot everybody that you hate in American life.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, well, I don't think you understand. My movies make hundreds of dollars.

SAGAL: Oh wow.


SAGAL: Well Bobcat Goldthwaite, it's great to have you with us. We have invited you here today to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL: They call me the Velvet Kasell.

SAGAL: Since you're known, or were, for your rather unique speaking voice, we thought we'd ask you questions about some other performers, like Carl here, who are known for their smooth and sultry voices. Get two of these three questions right you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is Bobcat Goldthwaite playing for?

KASELL: Bobcat is playing for Max Kelly of Hoboken, New Jersey

SAGAL: Here is your first question. You ready to go?


SAGAL: Here we go. Now, Mel Torme was known as the Velvet Fog because of his great voice. What was the great soul singer Barry White's nickname? Was it A: The Walking Aphrodisiac? B: The basso Mas Profundo del Mundo? Or C: The Walrus of Love?


SAGAL: The Walrus of Love.


SAGAL: You knew that for a fact?

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah. The first time I was on Letterman, I was like 20-years-old and I was on a show called "Camping with Barry White Night."


SAGAL: There you are. He was known as the Walrus of Love. He was a rather heavy man. I want to know who called him that to his face, though.

GOLDTHWAIT: Well, it wasn't a nickname he had to his face, it was usually behind who were behind him and they were speaking in really quiet tones. "Hey, Barry. Hey, Barry. Hey, Walrus of Love."


SAGAL: Next up: James Earl Jones, you all know what his deep voice is like. What you may not know about James Earl Jones is what? A: He was a celebrated boy soprano until his voice changed? B: He didn't say a word in public all through elementary school? Or C: He naturally, if he just relaxes, has a thick Chicago accent?

GOLDTHWAIT: I'm going to say B.

SAGAL: He didn't say a word?


SAGAL: You're right. You're absolutely right.



SAGAL: As he says, he had a terrible stutter and didn't get over it until he got to high school and found a good teacher to help him with it.

All right, you're doing very well. Of course, the last voice, one of America's most beloved, the deep voice of Elvis Presley. There was an auction of the King's belongings recently and this item fetched $17,000.

Was it A: a 60 minute cassette of nothing but screaming girls? He reportedly couldn't sleep without it. B: A jar of his hair? Or C: Blueprints for Spaceland, the mansion he planned to build someday on the moon?

ROCCA: Oh that's great.

GOLDTHWAIT: I'm going to go with Spaceland.

SAGAL: Spaceland?

DICKINSON: Spaceland.


SAGAL: No. It was a jar of his hair.


ROCCA: Gross.

SAGAL: Why there was his hair in a jar, we don't know, but it went for $17,000.

GOLDTHWAIT: It seems like it would fetch a lot more with the possibility of cloning.

ROCCA: Right.

SAGAL: That's true. You could have lots of little Elvises running around. Carl, how did Bobcat Goldthwaite do on our show?

KASELL: Bobcat had two correct answers, Peter, so he wins for Max Kelly.

SAGAL: You won.


SAGAL: Well done. Bobcat Goldthwait's new movie "God Bless America" opens this weekend. It's great, it's funny, it's very strange. Bobcat, thank you so much for joining us.

GOLDTHWAIT: Oh, I had a wonderful time. Thanks for having me on.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.


(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.