Throughout the ’80s and a good chunk of the ’90s, Bobcat Goldthwait was best known for his role as screechy-voiced Officer Zed in the Police Academy series, in addition to his screechy-voiced stand-up. Since making his feature-directing debut with 1991’s Shakes the Clown, Goldthwait has steadily become one of the coolest cult directors in America. Before his latest pitch-black comedy has its world premiere at Midnight Madness on September 9th, we got to chat with the comic-turned-director about American Idol, clown noir and how making God Bless America stopped him from blowing up MTV.
1) Like many of your other films, God Bless America is an intriguing blend of genres—from buddy comedy to vigilante and road film to even horror. Is this a deliberate strategy or something that just happens intuitively?
I guess it's unintentional. It's how they come out of my head. I bet the movies would be easier to market if they weren't. “If you see one bestiality rom-com this year, make it Sleeping Dogs Lie.” Shakes the Clown: “Who doesn't like clown noir?” World's Greatest Dad: “See Robin Williams in a heartfelt coming-of-age story where his son dies beating off with a belt around his neck!”
2) God Bless America instantly recalls other killers-on-the-road classics. Did any films in particular serve as inspiration?
3) In the film, an American Idol-type contestant named Steve Clark becomes an overnight sensation for all the wrong reasons. This character is so accurate and yet so surreal. How did you come up with him? And did you write his music?
Casting Steve Clark was incredibly difficult. You want the character to be a believable American Idol reject/weirdo type, but not so much of a parody that it seems like you're mocking those sad people (rather than the people who abuse them). Aris Alvarado (who plays the part) is amazing. He came in the room and was so funny and so sweet and at the same time so unlikeable where he needed to be. As far as his music, we literally went down a list of cheap songs and when my wife saw this one she pretty much dictated that we were using it.
4) Along with this mock-celebrity, your stand-up persona and your 2003 film Windy City Heat all tackle a running theme: audiences laughing at someone who's clearly awkward and uncomfortable.
I think that's just the theme of my whole life.
5) This film pokes fun at some very grating aspects of popular culture (i.e. reality shows). Was there a perverse sense of satisfaction in creating such a wild revenge scenario?
I hope people see this movie and realize that what passes for entertainment these days is often just stupid, disgusting abuse and/or a celebration of the worst qualities in humanity. I think if I hadn't made this movie I may have actually blown up the MTV offices.
GOD BLESS AMERICA screening times:
Fri., Sept. 9th, 11:59PM, RYERSON
Sun., Sept. 1tth, 1:30PM, AMC 6
Fri., Sept. 16th, 6:30PM, AMC 7