Bobcat Goldthwait (with hat) and Dana Gould in Joy Ride. Credit: Courtesy Right On! PR

On Thursday morning, Bobcat Goldthwait is driving to the Music Box Theatre for a test screening of his latest documentary. It’s a short drive for the comedian/writer/director who just recently moved to DuPage County and gave himself the nickname the “Daniel Craig of DuPage.” 

“I had to get out of [DuPage],” Goldthwait jokes. “The autograph signing, the pressure, and all the James Bond questions got to me.” 

Goldthwait is in good spirits ahead of Friday’s 7:30 p.m. screening of Joy Ride at the Music Box. The midwest premiere features a post-screening Q&A with Goldthwait and his co-star, comedian/writer Dana Gould. More information on Friday’s event is available here. 

Directed by Goldthwait, Joy Ride gives fans a look at the duo’s tour as well as the growth of their friendship, which started off rocky, to say the least. 

Goldthwait directed the documentary, which premieres in October of 2021.

“There’s a part in the movie where [Dana and I] are on the road, and Dana says, ‘We didn’t like each other,’” Goldthwait says of the comics’ relationship. “And I tell Dana, ‘Well, that’s not true. I hated you.’ I would really torture the guy.” 

Ahead of Friday night’s event, Goldthwait discussed his relationship with Gould, the documentary, and how his next movie is a children’s film that won’t be bought by Disney. What follows has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Matthew Sigur: At what point did you start to broach the subject of touring with Dana Gould and reliving that frenemy past?

Bobcat Goldthwait: All of it was organic. We were friends at that point. Also, we knew that if the two of us did shows together, we wouldn’t necessarily have to play comedy clubs. We could play rock clubs, which is great because people coming to the show were there specifically to see us. No one was there on a Groupon. 

Being on the road meant we got to hang out together. Originally, the show would start with the two of us coming to the stage, then flipping a coin to see who was going to be headliner that night. But the more we dicked around on stage, that part of the evening got longer. We both noticed the audience really seemed to like it more when we’re out there together. So we jettisoned doing our solo acts, and we started to do the show together.

When did that change happen—from two solo acts to the duo-style show?

That was right off the bat, by the time we did our third show together. But discussing our past was interesting. That didn’t fuel the tour. The tour was the friendship we have now. But there were clearly unresolved things. Dana tends to do anything to avoid being uncomfortable or conflict. I’m way more emotional. It was interesting while we’re on the road, when he said, “We didn’t like each other.” And I said, “Well that’s not true. I hated you.” I was being really honest. That period that wasn’t just like when we met, that went on for years. I would really torture the guy. I was really happy that I found a clip of me being vicious on stage to him because it underlined it.

I’ve only seen the movie once with an audience, but after that clip played, I couldn’t buy a laugh for ten minutes. People did not like me. As I was looking at all the footage, I realized I have to be the antagonist in this movie. My ego is big, but my drive to be a storyteller was bigger, and that won out. 

What was it about Dana that you hated?

Dana didn’t have his own voice when he started. [His comedy] was derivative of Tom Kenny. At that point in my life, I tended to really pride myself at pointing out people’s flaws. Tom Kenny is the funniest person I’ve ever met. I grew up with him. I definitely have been influenced by him. There was probably that part of me that didn’t like that that attacked Dana. Also, as a bully, Dana was weak, so it was fun.

When you two started becoming friends, was it the love of Ed Wood that bonded you two?

Yeah, I have an Ed Wood tattoo. Dana actually gave me an autograph from Ed Wood—a real, autographed 8×10. That’s not what won me over, but that gives you an idea of our friendship.

Ed Wood was a biggie. I actually don’t think he’s the worst filmmaker ever. I think the worst filmmakers are people who aren’t personal and make boring movies. Ed Wood is very personal and never boring (laughs).

I was just thinking about what makes a bad movie, specifically Mac and Me. That’s now become a notorious schlock film. I’ve been fascinated by it. That’s a bad movie because it was made by McDonald’s. That’s insane that a corporation made a movie. That’s a horrible film.

You bring up a good point about movies. It feels like a lot of the blockbusters today are cutouts or done by number. I love movies, but I’m not as interested in them as the more personal films. 

Yeah, it’s interesting. The thing about Disney movies—and I’m including everything like the Marvel and Pixar films, too—they’re not poorly done. They check all the boxes. But after a while you’re going, “Is this some kind of magic trick that they’ve figured out and I’m just sitting here, being part of it again?” It’s like, “Dammit, I’m crying at the end of Soul. You did it again, you pricks.” It does feel like we’re hitting these certain beats as if it was like, “There’s a way we do this, and if you don’t check all these boxes, it doesn’t make sense or it won’t work.”

Traditionally, people would talk about formulaic movies, but I feel like when I’m watching movies now that there truly is a formula that people are using.

I did a movie called God Bless America. I think it’s flawed for reasons different from those from people who don’t like the movie, but I was talking to Terry Gilliam. He asked me why there wasn’t someone pursuing the main characters through the movie. I said, “I always hate that part in this kind of movie when they cut to Harvey Keitel and he’s like, ‘I gotta get inside their brain, where are they gonna end up next?’” But Gilliam was like, “There’s a reason for that.” (Laughs) He said, “You have absolutely no concern for the language of cinema.” I was like, “Can I put that on the poster?”

Joy Ride screening and post-film Q&A: Fri 10/22, 7:30 PM, Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, $12

Part of Joy Ride shows how the two of you were involved in a car crash during the tour. After that happened, were you concerned about the tour?

I noticed I’m a better driver than him after that. I drive like Mr. Magoo. You would have thought that maybe that would’ve been the narrative: We’re in a near-fatal car crash, and now we see the world in a different way. That really didn’t happen. 

The only thing that did happen is when we went back on tour, my brain wasn’t 100 percent there. It was interesting. I had to think about thinking. A little bit of that is in the movie, when I’m like, “Uh . . . uhh, what did I have . . . a concussion, oh yeah.” I was definitely messed up for a half a year after that. It’s weird when you hurt your melon. You kind of think, “Oh, this is how I’m going to be.” But I did feel my memory come back and the ability to remember stuff and articulate a little faster.

How did you two decide on material for the show?  

There wasn’t any discussion. A little bit of it was when we would get back on the road, we would say, “Let’s do this” or “let’s do that.” But as soon as we got up there, that went out the window. We were drawing from a combination of what’s going on with us and the world, and drawing from our set lists that we personally had. The shows themselves would be about two to two-and-a-half hours long. 

Would you two tour again?

Oh yeah, we already did some dates. I love it when we haven’t seen each other, and we get up on stage and that. For the first 25 minutes or more, it’s about what’s going on now. That’s exciting because we’re both hashing out new stuff.

It’s not like one of us is the dumb guy. It’s not the traditional two-header of [Dean] Martin and [Jerry] Lewis or Abbott and Costello. I really love those guys, but I was trying to think, “What is our show?” It’s not like two guys trying to top each other. It’s not like one guy is trying to steer the show and the other guy is interrupting it. What we do have in common with early Martin and Lewis is that we really do love each other. I’m really enjoying watching him, and he’s really enjoying watching me. There’s this mutual admiration society.

Do you think of how audiences may react to new stuff you’re writing?

Yeah, when I came back doing stand-up, I found myself retreating a little bit and not being opinionated because doing stand-up now is like being at Thanksgiving with some idiot relatives that you totally disagree with. I’m wrestling with my upper-class upbringing, like “I’ve gotta do a good show for the people” versus “I gotta say what I wanna say.” After going on the road, I realized I was kind of censoring myself in certain places, because the comedy clubs are insane right now. Hillbillies are emboldened. People can’t act right on a plane, you think they’re going to act right when there’s a two-drink minimum?

I actually don’t believe there’s a “cancel culture.” It just reminds me of like in the 80s when a shock jock would get fined by the FCC or get in trouble with management or a sponsor. They would say, “I’m getting killed by the man,” and then that person’s fans would rally behind them, and they would end up making millions of dollars.

When people use the term cancel culture, it’s just a way of people marginalizing marginalized groups, and it gives permission to their audience to feel like they’re the victim. No one’s freedom of speech is being taken away. All these millionaires are going to keep on making millions of dollars.

If it boils down to a millionaire and a major corporation versus people who are being murdered and have a high rate of suicide, which side do you think I’m going to be on? I’m going to be on the side of marginalized people. I’ve always considered myself an outsider, you know?

Goldthwait and Gould performing on stage.

Are you and Dana still writing a movie?

Dana and I are both working on scripts for various other things. I’ve been working on turning [the 2015 documentary] Call Me Lucky into a narrative film with Judd Apatow. In between all this, during the pandemic, it was really hard for me to write. Normally, my stuff tends to be a little dark. I ended up writing a kids’ movie. I felt that was as far as I could go, the most punk rock thing to do. (Laughs) I wrote a movie that was me at seven and how I saw the world and stuff.

So if Disney buys it . . .?

They’re not gonna buy it. It’s still . . . yeah, it’s not going to be made by Disney.

Joy Ride will be released widely in theaters and on demand on Fri 10/29 via Gravitas Ventures. Viewers can pre-save the film on iTunes before the release date by going here. Detailed information on the documentary and future screening dates can be found here.