Editor’s Notes: Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek opens in limited release June 6th.
I consider myself a child of the 80s, at least the tail end of the 80s. So Bobcat Goldthwait was always, to me, Zed. He was the loud, high-pitched, borderline psychotic recruit in the Police Academy films. Like those films, his act ran on much too long, and I dismissed Goldthwait once I grew out of my childhood admiration for the terrible franchise. Little did I know the dark and twisted talent Bobcat Goldthwait had lying beneath his grating comedic persona, and I never expected such an eccentric directorial career to bloom from the maniac who tortured poor Sweetchuck in those hapless Police Academy sequels. The films of Bobcat the director seem to touch on a very dark, very disturbing, albeit very true corner of the human psyche. They take uncomfortable thoughts and place them in the forefront, allowing his characters and his stories to take drastic and outlandish turns. And yet, somehow, the humor remains intact.
The films of Bobcat the director seem to touch on a very dark, very disturbing, albeit very true corner of the human psyche.
Robert Francis Goldthwait, “Bobcat,” was born a comedian. Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1962, Bobcat was shaping his comedy act from the age of 15. He found his groove in the 80s when stand up comedians were all the rage, but still very troubled and struggling artists. His first major role was in Police Academy 2, where he birthed a role that would make him semi famous as Zed. From his success in the Police Academy movies, Goldthwait blossomed as a touring comedian, even opening for Nirvana in 1994. In the middle of this marginal success, he also directed his first dark comedy, Shakes the Clown. Panned by critics and lambasted by Roger Ebert, Shakes the Clown made more headlines for being controversial and bad than it did for box office numbers.
It would be a long time before Bobcat directed another feature, however, he kept busy directing episodes of The Man Show and Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central. He directed a TV movie called Windy City Heat and a feature called Sleeping Dogs Lie, but these were beyond indie. But Sleeping Dogs Lie hinted at Goldthwait’s demented sense of humor, as the heroine in the picture admits to experimenting with beastiality. Bobcat’s “breakout” directorial effort, if there has been such a thing thus far, came in 2009 with the pitch black comedy World’s Greatest Dad.
Starring Robin Williams, World’s Greatest Dad focused on a lowly high school teacher whose impossibly difficult and hateful son is found hanging dead in his bedroom after a masturbatory miscalculation. From the accident, Williams’ character finds new life and joy in the fame he receives. The film was never overwhelmingly successful, but it seemed to find an audience of humor masochists. Goldthwait had found his voice, and worked on perfecting it in the follow up. If World’s Greatest Dad wasn’t dark enough, God Bless America was the missing link.
From shouting Zed to sick and twisted auteur, Bobcat Goldthwait has managed to tap into an underlying frustration and dark side of humanity, and keep things light enough along the way.
God Bless America is about a terminally ill man, Frank (Joel Murray), who sets out to kill all of the annoying people in the world. He also picks up a 16-year old female accomplice along the way. You know the feeling, the thoughts when someone cuts you off, or the latest teenage celebrity acts like an idiot. Just think about what you wish you could do to Justin Beiber… God Bless America personified these deep, dark thoughts. This is Goldthwait’s comedic pipeline, his ability to pull the deepest and darkest thoughts from us and make them comedy. But don’t pigeonhole Bobcat because, apparently, his latest film switches gears completely.
Bobcat has decided to dive into the realm of found footage films with a Bigfoot horror picture, Willow Creek. It is an interesting turn in his career, but nevertheless will be an interesting change. From shouting Zed to sick and twisted auteur, Bobcat Goldthwait has managed to tap into an underlying frustration and dark side of humanity, and keep things light enough along the way.