But in recent years, the once larger-than-life Goldthwait is keeping it small. He’s gone from the guy who once set The Tonight Show guest chair on fire to the acclaimed writer-director of the small-scale, ribald and pitch-black comedies Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad.
Still, his wild-man reputation persists. Not that Goldthwait—whose weekend gig at Goodnight’s Comedy Club continues through Sunday, Feb. 19, is completely against that perception by fans.
“I think I’m always fighting being a nostalgia act,” says Goldthwait on the phone from Los Angeles.
“I understand how people want to talk to me about my older material, and I hate it when some showbiz people don’t want to talk about their pasts. But you’ll see something about you posted (on YouTube) and think, ‘Wow, that’s all I am to this person?’ But it’s a perception that I perpetuated, so I could be frustrated by it, but it’d be a lot of wasted energy.”
Goldthwait sounds completely different on the phone than those only familiar with his acting and stand-up work would expect. He’s calm, laid-back and thoughtful when it comes to describing his life and career.
These days, he prefers to stay behind the scenes with his films, a career he eased into with a few years of directing Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“At this point in my life, I’m interested in working out things that I’m concerned about, or that eat up a lot of my gray matter,” Goldthwait says.
“Just simply to be famous is not fulfilling, so that’s why I’ve got to get stuff going with a little meat on it.”
His next film starts production in April, based on an original screenplay he calls “kind of like Badlands or Network, about the American coliseum, about how we’re all about throwing people under the bus.”
Last year, it was announced that he’d helm a film version of the Kinks album Schoolboys in Disgrace, though he says that project’s taking longer to come together, resulting in his going with the smaller original project in the meantime.
“I like keeping it smaller,” Goldthwait says of his films. “The Kinks musical I am very serious about—it’s going to cost more than the size and scope of the movies I usually make, and I keep working on it, but it’s going to take longer to get it going. And I like the freedom of doing a tiny movie.”
Though Goldthwait has announced his retirement from stand-up comedy a few times, he says he continues to draw inspiration from the people and places he sees on the road, and is looking forward to returning to Goodnight’s, a venue he’s played several times throughout his career.
Does he think the Goodnight's audience will be open to his new material?
“I just hope folks come out to the show and not expect the Grover voice,” he says.
Bobcat Goldthwait appears at Goodnight’s through Sunday.