Would America let a tasty toddler stand in the way of electing a great president? Not in Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits and Monsters, where fang-shaming werewolves and discrimination against mermaids are strictly forbidden. The anthology series is modeled after mind-bending classic TV series like The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, exploring new genres with a new cast every week on TruTV.
Each episode mashes two seemingly unlike sources, like mixing Enemy of the State with Home Alone, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with Cape Fear, to skewer both, while keeping a broad and subversive eye on the world around.
In the episode that aired at the SVA Theater during the NY Television Fest, “Face in the Car Lot,” David Koechner plays Swell Del Wainwright, a used car salesman with enough charisma that leads Dave Foley’s character to believe he can sell him as the leader of the free world. Sure, he’s boorish, misogynistic and anti-intellectual, even by 1970s standards, and cheated on his first wife with her sister, but that’s what first wives are for. He’s an American and a self-made success. His furry lycanthropic interior has a Teflon covering and he can do no wrong.
“LaVeyan Satanism doesn’t assume the existence of a satanic deity,” Justin Bieberish pop star Caleb Faustini, played by Ross Bryant, concedes about The Satanic Bible, which his mom brought to her book of the month club. “Luckily there were Grimoires and stuff, more Left Hand Path Satanism” to help him seek out the “ancient names of the unholy ones and make a hallowed verse to call His Black Name.” The upcoming episode “Devil in the Blue Jeans” brings Satan, played by Michael Ian Black, to family therapy after dropping a diabolical deal.
Goldthwait started doing standup when he was still a teenager and wound up hanging with musical misfits like Prince and Bowie, who sang “Scary Monsters.” But the actor most associated with the Police Academy movies, of which he skipped number 5 because the script lost focus and his character “would never talk like that,” makes films and television series which plunge into dark satirical waters and dangerous emotional places. Goldthwait wrote, directed and starred in black comedies like Shakes the Clown (1991), Sleeping Dogs Lie (2006), World’s Greatest Dad (2009), God Bless America (2011), and the horror film Willow Creek (2013). The comedian and actor found a unique voice early, and has been consistently adding octaves. The Misfits and Monsters opener, “Bubba the Bear,” cast Seth Green as a voice actor desperate to clear his throat.
Bobcat Goldthwait spoke with Den of Geek about the upcoming series, documentary filmmakers he likes and humanizing Donald Trump in an interview conducted at the SVA Theater on 23rd Street during the NY Television Fest.
Den of Geek: So are you a monster or a misfit?
Bobcat Goldthwait: Oh, I kind of, I guess I’m probably both, I think that’s the idea of the name but yeah I think everybody feels like an outsider. Certainly my old persona could be defined as a monster yeah.
Did you cry when King Kong died?
Oh yeah definitely, I even cried when Mighty Joe Young went to the hooskow, when he got arrested, you know, that’s weird do you remember that? Yeah and I was going “why can’t he just get out?” And “boy he’s a lot smaller than King Kong” that’s what I was thinking.
Is Bubba a metaphor for your old persona and the Police Academy movies and were you ever on the verge of cutting out your own tongue?
I was on the verge of maybe cutting out other people’s tongues but no. You know what’s funny? I first thought Bubba was about Tom Kenny. I’d grown up with Tom Kenny since I was about six and he’s the voice of SpongeBob. Tommy does go to schools and he does a lot of charity work so that’s probably the germ of it. But then, my daughter pointed it out that Bubba is my story. That having this character I can’t get rid of or that haunts me and that coming to terms with it but just recently I was watching an episode and I realized that, that’s not even true. The reality of it is, is I’m Bubba, cause Bubba says “I was a bear goddammit and you’ve made me into some kind of joke.”
I had a standup act and I ended up turning it into something that was really watered down and accessible. Something that went from scary and threatening to something that was almost to the point of being corny.
But you can work with corny.
Well I could, I think people could digest it. We could plug this persona into a big studio film and it would work but that’s very limiting.
So if you could use Robert Mitchum or Gregory Peck [who starred in the original Cape Fear] in something like this, what would you make them do?
I think Mitchum would just really want to sing and dance. I think and then you would have your “Puttin’ on the Ritz” “Springtime for Hitler” moment.
We’re from Geek so I wanted to ask a little about Mike Carlo’s design of Bubba.
Oh yeah, he was great to work with. The idea was definitely to do something a little bit more on the Tex Avery side of things and not make it contemporary, but so many of the actual cartoons that do pop in our culture, end up being ones in recent years that were throwbacks. Be it Ren and Stimpy or SpongeBob is more Fleischer, so I just thought this guy was kind of from that Tex Avery. He would have been more of a Warner Brothers cartoon. I feel like Roger Rabbit was definitely supposed to be a Disney Character, so I thought this guy was more of a Warner Brothers Character.
You’re more of an Avery fan than a Chuck-
Chuck Jones? Yeah Avery’s just funny, just really violent and faster and faster and a lot of adult themes.
Actually I want to ask about the tongue, the devil’s tongue, that was my favorite episode, and that was my favorite scene.
Oh cool, the tongue was done with three different things it was in camera, and then there was obviously CG. I’m learning that I think that’s the best mixture is when you have a practical effect. I think it’s very Freddy Krueger actually probably how we did it. They used to do a lot of things with him… reverse stuff and things like that.
How did the visual come to you?
I just knew when I was writing it that we were doing McInerny but I did know that it would have to be a moment where we learn that he really is Satan. So I just thought of that I didn’t think how we were going to do it, but I just kind of thought of it. Actually the first idea for Satan was that he had a fanny pack, and then from there it kind of all came out. Yeah I kind of feel like I’m really happy with the last visual gag at the end of that episode. I think not in every episode but I think we should deliver and we do usually, not all of them but the majority of them there should be some gore effects but in a comedic way.
One of the things I noticed, you seem to have a grasp on Aleister Crowley.
That has to do with Ross Bryant because he ad-libbed that run. So most of the scripts, well, all the scripts were scripted, but that one I knew that if it was going to be a successful mocumentary, you have to give over the reins and so I just got together. Ross’ big improv background and Jill Talley, Dave Pasquesi all these people, Michael Ian Black all of them were improv actors so, I could have easily cut that, that could have easily been a 45 minute episode, there was a lot of ad-libs that went on.
Okay rock-n-roll has been associated with Satan since Robert Johnson sold his soul at the crossroads. Did you get any blow back from the Illuminati for exposing Justin Bieber and ‘Devil in Blue Jeans?’
I would hope so, in terms of like the genesis of all these different scripts that was the idea, I didn’t know who it was or whatever it was, if it was even gonna be Bieber but I liked the idea of a devil contract where Satan is the one that wants to renege. It’s classically the mark is the one that is trapped and wants to renege but I liked the idea that Satan is not only disappointed in him but just disappointed in mankind that it’s no longer a good business model for him.
Before I spend too much time on that, did you choose the werewolf for Trump because of the hair?
No, initially I wrote an episode that was a James Dean ’50s rebel film and he’s a werewolf and he’s hanging out with these beatniks, these beat poets and then he tries heroin and he doesn’t turn into a werewolf, so the highroad for him was to be strung out all the time. So they try to clean him up and then they take him to a sanitarium and he gets clean but he kills his family. I think I wrote that whole episode just so you could have that scene were dad getting attacked and the dad says “you’re tearing me apart!” But then in between that, the script had been green lit by Tru and I gotta give them credit because then the following week I just handed them in a completely different episode and they said okay if this is what you want to do.
The election went down and I thought it was kind of funny, but the hair isn’t. The one thing no one picks up is that David Koechner was the only person that I can think of that I actually wrote the role for, so I was hoping he would do it. I just love him I think he’s so funny and I think he’s a really good actor, but the werewolf has male pattern baldness because of his condition. I don’t think anyone’s caught on to that yet.
I was wondering if you were afraid that you might be humanizing Trump by werewolfing him.
Yeah, it’s kind of like so many of these things that I do that initially seem outrageous and then reality exceeds it so it’s like that’s like that. When I did the movie God Bless America, our reality went even crazier than the one I was trying to say I’d write.
What do you think of Michael Moore and just some of your peers in that kind of documentary filmmaking?
I really like and admire Michael Moore. My only, not criticism, but my only thing about Michael Moore is he’s great at what he does, but I think he’s found a lot of people who shouldn’t be in their own documentaries. He keeps it moving, he’s funny, he’s great.
I was in Call Me Lucky just a little bit, I kind of didn’t even want to be in it that much but I was part of Barry’s story so I had to be in it, but I do lean towards watching docs. I really like docs, like the Mr. Rogers doc was probably my favorite movie in a few years.
I’m really into Joe Berlinger, I covered a bunch of his things.
Yeah he’s great, and one of my favorite docs is actually Brother’s Keeper and that’s from where Tom Kenny and I are from. It’s really just thirty-forty minutes outside our home town.
He hooked me up with Whitey Bulger’s lawyer when he was doing the Whitey one, that was great and I rooted for the bad guy so let’s go back to, if someone’s rooting for Bubba, are they rooting for you?
Yeah kind of funny, I hope that the people find that episode a little scary, kind of fun, but I don’t necessarily see him as a villain. I think he’s probably a bad guy but I don’t see him as a villain.
I’ve always seen you as a subversive comic, from the second you did the homophobic rage routine where you wanted to punch a guy, except he looks like Rob Lowe and you also kinda want to kiss him. So in all of these you are subverting, tell me about the power of subversion.
I think that is what always interested me and so I don’t think about it too much I think it just comes out of me. But you know even when I was a kid I was really young, I was drawn to comedy. Then by the time I was my tweens I was drawn to anti-comedy for lack of a better word by Andy Kaufman and Brother Theodore and all these people, and Python was definitely like that.
I think that people also forget that Steve Martin’s early comedy was really anti-comedy he was really making fun of where we had gone, with the corniness of standup. But as far as my stories I tell, it’s usually just smashing up a couple of genres and then, looking at that as a challenge, like hey can you take a Jerry Lewis movie and set it in Dealey Plaza, that’s basically the plot of one of the episodes coming up with Josh Fadem. I really like Frank Tashlin, and Jerry Lewis so I did a Jerry Lewis movie in Dealey Plaza. In hindsight I would have called it “The Muddy Assassin.” I just ran into it and called it “The Patsy” because that was a Jerry Lewis movie and that’s what we already said he was.
Do you have an interest in the paranormal? Have you seen Bigfoot?
Yeah, I do have it but it’s the same fascination from when I was a kid. I just think it’s almost the same as being attracted to any kind of folk tales or fairy tales. I’m always wondering, if Bigfoot’s not real then why does this creature show up in all these different cultures? I’m always fascinated by that kind of stuff. What are we projecting when we see monsters on a lake? I really want to do a sea monster. I would have it, if it was a sea monster he’d probably be a depressed sea monster… manic depressive.
New York City just threw WitchsFest so all the witches were already in two different locations.
I’m sure there’s in-fighting.
Actually there is, strangely enough.
Cause there’s in-fighting in the Furry community. I wanted to do a Furry, there’s an alt-right fraction of the Furries right now and the Furries are all upset.
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I haven’t seen it yet but from what I saw from the teaser clip of the mermaid episode, it challenges both body images and political correctness. How are you on microaggressions?
I think the mermaid episode is actually really about casual racism. That’s what the whole episode is about, and it’s kind of challenging people’s idea of how woke they think they are, and that’s why I did that one, and then once we got Bridgette, Bridgette’s going to meet a mermaid that’s gray and it’s actually my stab at an MGM musical, as far as the colors and tone. We’re still coloring it and stuff and finishing.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on TruTV.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.