Up until a few years ago, Bobcat Goldthwait made a living by screaming at audiences and having mental breakdowns on stage that would get the average person thrown into an intense psychiatric rehabilitation facility. Best known for his roles in the Police Academy movies and the cult hit, Shakes the Clown, Goldthwait has moved on to direct darker comedies such as Sleeping Dogs Lie and his most recent and highly rated work, World’s Greatest Dad, starring Robin Williams and Daryl Sabara. Goldthwait and Sabara (SPY KIDS) sat down with the Travesty to talk about World’s Greatest Dad, ballet, and the downsides of impersonating a Sesame Street character—which, apparently, is not as glamorous as we had once thought.
Texas Travesty: What do you think of Austin?
Bobcat Goldthwait: Daryl’s filmed some movies here before.
Daryl Sabara: This is almost like a second home. I’m actually here by myself right now for the first time.
TT: Have you gotten a chance to see the sites?
DS: Yeah I’ve been to Waterloo, Amy’s Ice Cream, the bats, and the beautiful capitol of course.
BG: I’ve been here before to play the comedy clubs like Cap City. Never Velveeta Room, though. I should go down there sometime and eat shit. [Laughs]. I know it’s a tough room.
TT: How did you two get together for World’s Greatest Dad?
BG: Daryl came in and auditioned. He was supposed to audition for Andrew, the role of the nice kid in the movie, but he had Kyle already. He was a little bit of a dick, you know? But when I saw him I was like, well if I could get this boy, for me at least, it would work in this movie. And then I called everybody to find out if Daryl really was an asshole. And then he came back here and we spoke and it sure enough, he’s a huge cock [Laughs].
TT: Did you do any asshole research for this film?
DS: You know it’s weird, all I really did, was in the waiting room before I auditioned, I was blaring Notorious BIG. So I was just listening to that, and I go to public high school.
TT: Have you been doing much stand-up lately?
BG: I go out and do stand-up because, you know, it’s a great way to make money. I just started enjoying it recently and I haven’t in years. I always didn’t really like doing stand-up. But then I went out and jettisoned the character and persona people knew me for and kind of started having fun on stage.
TT: Why did you stop liking stand-up?
BG: It was just because of the expectations on me. When I would show up in town, people wanted me to do the “Grover voice.” So, just recently, I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Not like, “I’m not going to do that because I’m an artist.” I just realized that I started hating stand-up because [the Grover voice] had become such a crutch and so boring for me.
TT: Do you feel like stand-up has changed much since you got started?
BG: The marketing of stand-up has changed completely. It used to be that if you got on a talk show it was a big deal, and now it’s like, how many hits you get on Youtube.
TT: Can you give me a one-line synopsis of “World’s Greatest Dad?”
BG: It’s a…life-reaffirming…no. [Laughs]. One line about it…I think it’s a…
TT: How about two lines?
BG: It’s kind of a satire of how narcissistic we’ve really become. There’s more to it than that, but that is kind of the world it’s in.
TT: How was it for you, Daryl, moving from the “Spy Kids” movies to this type of darker role?
DS: I was thrilled. I really love the craft and acting and film. One of the coolest things for me was that, I have a twin brother, and all of the movies I’ve done have been fun and all, but this is the first movie where my brother has come up to me and been like, “Man, that was awesome!” So now there’s more of a sense that I’m making movies for other people. So that was what was really fun about this.
TT: Bobcat, was it a conscious decision for you to move away from more of the Police Academy-type movies to this type of film?
BG: Well, I was never really happy in show-business up until I quit about five or six years ago. I quit writing for people—I quit everything. I just decided that I wasn’t going to do something that I wasn’t happy doing. I scaled down my life even, moved into an apartment, and started taking work that I like doing versus the career kind of crap I was doing. I jokingly say that I retired from acting at the same time they stopped hiring me, so it worked out. But the reality of it is that there is a whole lot of freedom when you start writing without the thought of you being in it, or even the thought of trying to get it made. And people always ask me, “what do you have coming up next?” And I know I’ve completed two more scripts and I’m almost done with a third.
TT: Can we get any hints on what those are about?
BG: I wrote a spree killer movie that I’m almost finished with. It’s about a guy watching a show like, “My Super Sweet 16,” and just decides to drive to Virginia and kill the girl who’s on that show. Because they should all be shot anyway.
TT: Absolutely. No question about that.
BG: [Laughs] But so he kills her, and then there’s this outcast girl who goes to the same school who asks him if he killed the super sweet 16 girl and he says yes and she is just like, “cool.” And then they just kind of start killing people. The girl has more of a political agenda or she just hates everything and she’s just being a typical teen and being dramatic. But his thing is that he is really tired of how rude people are and how insensitive we have all gotten. The idea was just that, what if somebody was fed up and wasn’t adjusted? Would we empathize with this character?
TT: What was it like working with Robin Williams?
DS: I never really know how to answer this question.
BG: Well it’s because people think of Robin as being on all the time.
DS: The coolest thing for me is that I love comedy and stand-up. So it was great to film this with him, but it was also really fun to go out to dinner with him.
BG: The difference between this movie was that, we didn’t do it to where we would do a take where Robin read the script and then a take where Robin adlibed. It was more of a group effort where we all pitched in and gave suggestions on what to do. There’s little tiny things that happen in the movie that make me happy where Robin and Daryl are just in character and get a very realistic dialogue that wasn’t even in the script. There are even some scenes that didn’t make the movie where [Robin] got [Daryl] even a little angrier and more hostile. The reason we didn’t need those scenes in the movie was because the information became repetitive. We already knew Daryl was a shit-bird and we didn’t need these. Some of these will be in the DVD.
TT: So you and Robin had a good chemistry?
DS: Yeah, I had a really great time. Robin is actually a really calm guy and is probably one of the world’s greatest actors. And to work with him was so great.
TT: Has it been difficult for you to transition from being a strictly comedian/actor to a director?
BG: Um, nope. For me it hasn’t been difficult because I haven’t been doing it inside the system. “Sleeping Dogs Lie” we shot in two weeks with a crew from craigslist so it wasn’t like I needed the studio. And this movie was filmed outside the system. So I’m not really waiting for Hollywood. And not in a sort of “fuck you” way, but I’m just not really interested in anything. I still get screenplays to direct, but it’s funny because anytime I get a screenplay it already has Jason Reitman and Spike Jonze’s coffee stain on it. So there’s still a pecking order. It’s just a weird system. My agent was out with a really big producer, and she said that she was having lunch with him said that he was a really big fan and asked me what I wanted her to say, and I said, “tell him thank you, and tell him I said to stop making movies.”
TT: Daryl, I read that you have some ballet in you past…
DS: You’re the second person to ask me about this. Where is this coming from?
BG: Man, I wish I knew about this Wikipedia. We could have made some use of this and done a swan lake thing with you and Robin. [Laughs]
DS: But yeah, I did ballet when I was three because there was a studio in my town that was by a bakery, and when I would walk by the bakery, I would look in the window of the studio and see all of these cute girls, and I wanted to get inside that room. It was almost like when I wanted to be an actor, I would watch TV and want to actually be inside the TV. So I did ballet for a couple years and there was a little ballet scene in “Spy Kids,” and that’s just because Taylor and I both did ballet and Robert [Rodriguez] wanted to do a scene where our characters connected.
TT: Bobcat, how did you get into acting?
BG: I started doing stand-up when I was like 15, except it wasn’t really stand-up. I would just go on stage and read a “Dear, John” letter and be like, “Well, it feels good to be here tonight” and then just break down crying and then say that I got dumped by my girlfriend and then read the letter. Which was a real letter by the way. And I would say, “and you want to hear jokes right now? Well, fuck you.” [Laughs]. It was just like gutting fish. I would never really do me up there. I was always doing someone else. And then I got on Letterman when I was 20, so I understand why people think I’m older than I am. I mean, I’m 47, but I think people think I’m much older.
TT: When you started doing that character, did people immediately pick up on what you were doing? Or was there some resistance?
BG: There was resistance, but not from the audience. The audience seemed to like the persona more than the club owners. They were really confused and mad to have a guy go on stage and pretty much be the antithesis of what was popular at the time—a guy in a sweater talking about where the other sock was in the dryer and start crying. You know I don’t blame the club owners for getting pissed.