Bobcat Goldthwait made his first late-night appearance at age 20 on David Letterman’s late night show and now, 32 years later, Letterman is off the air.
“I had nothing to do with that!” Goldthwait said, by phone. Then he explained why he didn’t scramble to be one of Letterman’s last guests. He’s just not a limelight lover.
“I have a really weird relationship with fame,” Goldthwait mused. “I really like doing stand-up. I like the level of fame that I have. I’m missing that gene that most comedians have, and it’s a good gene to have, where you’re out hustling and appearing on TV and things like that. I like the fact that I can do stand-up and then still remain fairly anonymous. Clubs aren’t crazy about that, but. ...”
He will be doing his standup routine Thursday-Saturday at the Tacoma Comedy Club.
Goldthwait, in recent years, has preferred directing movie and TV shows to appearing in front of the camera. “Call Me Lucky,” his documentary on comedian/activist Barry Crimmins, earned rave reviews at film festivals. He also directed a found-footage horror film about Bigfoot (”Willow Creek”) and a dark satire, “God Bless America.” For a long time, he also directed “The Jimmy Kimmel Show.”
“I really love directing,” Goldthwait said. “I make a movie on my own every year to a year and a half and direct on others. It’s definitely the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.”
Except for cult favorite “Shakes the Clown,” he doesn’t act in his own films.
“I’ve directed seven movies, and I only showed up in one of them, and then, in another, a tiny cameo. I thought if I put myself in these movies it’d probably help ticket sales, but I’m not really interested in that. I’m very serious about trying to become a better storyteller.”
That includes storytelling on stage, too, as Goldthwait talks about his own life and embarrassing incidents.
Those who expect the early, manic, super high-pitched Bobcat need to know that persona is long gone.
“I started doing stand-up about when I was 15, and then I got on Letterman when I was 20, and now I’m 53,” Goldthwait said. “So yeah, I wouldn’t want to act as if I’m a kid. A 53-year-old talking about prom dates would be pretty creepy. But I guess the biggest thing is that I don’t do the persona that folks are familiar with.”
He stopped that after leaving Kimmel to resume his stand-up career.
“I realized I wasn’t enjoying it, but it wasn’t the stand-up. I like stand-up. I just really hated doing this old act for people,” Goldthwait said. “I understand there’s some disappointment for people who came to see that. But those are the same people that when the Who did ‘Tommy,’ (they) were booing because they didn’t do ‘Magic Bus.’ Most people are comfortable with hearing the old things. Most people don’t want to be challenged; they just wanted to be comforted.”
Occasionally, disappointed fans yell out or make a ruckus.
“They still do. They still yell. But you know, those people can cram it. Those people don’t care about my mental health,” Goldthwait said. “So, I take a page from the song ‘Garden Party.’ I think I’m paraphrasing, but if memories are all I did, I’d rather drive a truck.”
One of Bobcat Goldthwait’s closest friends was comedian Robin Williams, who starred in Goldthwait’s “World’s Greatest Dad” and made a cameo in “Shakes the Clown.” Williams was also involved in Goldthwait’s latest film, “Call Me Lucky,” about Crimmins.
“I was originally going to do it as a narrative movie, not a documentary, so it took a long time,” Goldthwait said. “Robin Williams was my friend, and he suggested that I make it as a documentary.”
Goldthwait acknowledged the anniversary of Williams’ suicide in August “was really rough. I just had to deal with it.”
He elaborated a little more to People magazine: “We never got off the phone without saying, ‘I love you,’ so I know that’s the last thing he and I said to each other. It’s strangely starting to feel like I’m only processing it now.”
Instead of looking back, however, Goldthwait prefers setting the record straight on Williams’ suicide.
“He had a disease called Lewy body dementia, that’s what the coroner’s report diagnosed. That’s what his dementia was; it’s a disease that attacks your brain. I don’t really like to talk too much about Robin, but I think it’s important that people know that that’s what was affecting him toward the end of his life.”