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Moontower 2014, Day 2: Bobcat Goldthwait

When the 'Cat shrieks, we listen

By Anne Harris, 1:30PM, Fri. Apr. 25

Moontower 2014, Day 2: Bobcat Goldthwait

Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows us that areas of the brain "light up" when responding to or making jokes. When making a joke, the brain scans itself for a laugh. After an hour with comic Bobcat Goldthwait in the intimate setting of the Stateside at the Paramount, the brain is barely blinking from the workout.

It has scanned and jousted with the 'Cat's interpretative powers and is now spinning aimlessly trying to find the car. Not one irascible fiber of Robert Francis "Bobcat" Goldthwait has softened in the years since he ruled 1980s television and stages with a new brand of "weird black humor." His contemporaries were weird, too – guys like Steven Wright and George Carlin, who made being daring outcasts sexy – but they never had an edge like the 'Cat. Not even Eddie Murphy could shock and awe like Goldthwait. We knew of his work as a film director and actor, and wondered if he still had the stage power. On the other side of a golf cart ride navigated by Upchuck the Clown, an escort during his appearance at a Gathering of the Juggalos, we are staying apace, but at full attention.

"People always ask if we were snorting real cocaine in Blow. Right," he says, before demonstrating what the result of that would look like. He points out that early in the film Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio is seen snorting a rail from a lady's exposed backside (specifically, the opening at the lower end of the alimentary canal), and that she unwittingly had the power to achieve the best blooper in film history, "maybe she was nervous that day already. Poof!"). In his hands, the mic emits amazing sounds – lawnmowers, shrieking women, helicopters over the house, you name it. The best part is that he retains a conversational style that feels personal, as if he were still a kid, straining to impress. Our question was answered definitively: He has every bit of that stage power, possibly in stronger doses.

Stories of strange times on the road feed Goldthwait's form of digression, which is the old "I'll get to the act in a second, I just have to tell you this first." It's still a neat trick, but he may be the one comic who is telling the truth when he says it. A long career and an enviable toolbox in his hands can mean an easy hour of storytelling; he went over his time this night and pretended the staff was annoyed. A glance to our right proved otherwise; the Moontower folks were as enchanted as we were, and agreed as the audience instructed him to ignore the clock. "They put these clocks here, not good for comedians …" Apparently every fan he meets is compelled to demonstrate how tall he was when he watched Goldthwait as Zed in Police Academy. "'Oh, wow, you were that tall.' Like it's relevant to anything. Nice image, how am I supposed to go rub one out back at the hotel now?" He set fire to The Tonight Show With Jay Leno during an appearance of which he is understandably proud.

Bob Khosravi opened the evening, giving us the business that made him a "Funniest Person in Austin" finalist last year. His material may have changed since, but he is one to watch when he describes how, as a child new to America, he had to learn English from Dr. Suess. (It makes less sense the way he tells it.) Next up was Comedy Central standup Andrew Santorini, who, despite a rocky start, engaged as he warmed to the audience. Preceding the 'Cat is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

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