Bobcat Goldthwait On How 'Misfits & Monsters' Is Like 'Get Out' [Interview]

Bobcat Goldthwait makes edgy indie movies that tackle taboo subjects. They find good homes at film festivals and arthouse theaters, but now he's got a weekly TV show to unleash his sensibility on the masses. Bobcat Goldthwait's Misfits & Monsters tells a new story every week, with some outrageous twist.

For example, the premiere episode, "Bubba the Bear." Seth Green plays an actor whose finds it even harder to get taken seriously when his famous animated character comes to life. Goldthwait may have faced the same battle metaphorically when he transitioned from an '80s comic to become a serious director.

Goldthwait sat down with /Film during the Television Critics Association press tour to discus Misfits & Monsters. He told us what some of the other episodes will be about and what they may have in common with his movies, and other movies he admires. Bobcat Goldthwait's Misfits & Monsters premieres Wednesday, July 11 at 10 p.m. on TruTv.

Is the Bubba the Bear episode indicative of what the other episodes will be like?

Yeah, I mean, I think the only thing that's different is in the majority of the episodes, there's a little more satire going on. It took me 'til after I finished the Bubba the Bear episode, I didn't understand what I was satirizing. It was my daughter who goes, "Yeah, you want to kill that character that people know you from and it was killing you all these years." I was like, "Oh, I didn't catch that." I didn't get that. I'm kind of a dummy. I make movies and not realize until afterwards, "Oh, I'm the protagonist."

So Bubba was the animal voice you were doing in standup and '80s comedies.

I guess it was. I didn't realize it. I think the satire in the upcoming episodes are less personal. One of my favorites is David Koechner is in an episode in the' 70s kind of like All the President's Men. But he's a used car salesman who's really popular, does his own commercials kind of guy and he's kind of a pig. He runs for president, so a used car salesman who runs for president but he's also a werewolf. When people find out about this they don't really care.

Is there some sort of special effect in every episode?

Yeah, there's usually some sort of fantasy or gore or creature stuff. I like genre films. I like all kinds of movies. I like movies that don't fit in a category. Like Get Out, that was one of my favorite movies in a long time and what is that?

It's not a comedy, despite what the Golden Globes say.

Yeah, but it is and it isn't. Hopefully, if I'm lucky, that's the kind of wheelhouse I like to be in where tonally you're laughing and you're uncomfortable sometimes and hopefully it's satirizing some things too.

The films you've made have been satirical, but is the tone of these episodes less of a tonal shift than some of your films?

I think working on half an hour TV, the pendulum doesn't swing that much. Like I do a mockumentary which is like a Justin Bieber type character who Satan shows up backstage and says, "Okay, no hard feelings, but the deal's off. No more singing, no more dancing, I just can't take it." He goes, "No, you want my soul." And [Satan]'s like, "Ehhh, I don't know if you have a soul." That one is the silliest of all of them but it still has some gore effects. There's nothing very heavy in that one. Like you said, the movies in the past tonally kind of shift and they go all over, but the fact that I'm doing half hour, it's like this is this, this is this.

Does the mockumentary episode have anything in common with Windy City Heat?

No, but man, I'm not 100% sure, but when I saw The Disaster Artist, I think that might be the same theater that we filmed the end of Windy City Heat. Not that it's a rip or anything but I was so shocked when I was seeing really similar shots at the end. I really like Disaster Artist.

Both The Room and Windy City were 2003, could you have shot Windy City Heat before Tommy Wiseau premiered The Room at the same theater?

Hmm, I don't think so. I think The Room was up and going. I feel like it was. I remember seeing that billboard and couldn't figure out what the hell.

Perry and the Big Three still do a podcast. Does he really still think Windy City Heat was a real movie?

Jimmy Kimmel, when he talks about it, people will ask if it's fake or not. He's always like, "Tell 'em it's fake. It self-promotes it more." I went back and watched it recently. I'm not distancing myself from the thing because I think it's really funny but I was just one piece of this crazy puzzle that made that movie.

Was The Twilight Zone an influence or inspiration on Misfits & Monsters?

I think The Twilight Zone is the biggest inspiration because Black Mirror's awesome and Tales from the Crypt is awesome. The thing about Tales from the Crypt or Tales from the Darkside is your protagonist would always do something and deserve a comeuppance. I tried to stay away from that. Sometimes that happens in Misfits & Monsters but lots of times I don't want that. I think that format becomes a little predictable. Twilight Zone, the satire in some of those episodes are so great. I went back and watched some of my favorites before I started writing it.

Which were your favorite Twilight Zones you went back to?

The Maple Street one where the Martians come down. That to me is my favorite episode because that's the best satire there going on. This show is kind of strange because some of the stuff is current, but I'm hoping that the stories that motivate me writing these, even when they're not fresh in people's minds later on, I hope the stories still work. Like there's an animated episode where a really famous chimp masturbates in front of women. I hope later on people will still understand really what the episode is about, again it's kind of taking the wind out of people who say they're woke but at the same time are still facilitating some negative behavior.

Did you write that before Louis C.K. admitted he did it?

No, but it's not even just about him. One thing that's weird is that's a common thing with these predators is that they want to masturbate in front of people, which is crazy to me. I can't pee in a urinal when there's another person around. Obviously, it's influenced by that but it's not solely that story in that episode. When I did God Bless America, there was concern amongst some of the people making the movie that the violence that we were portraying was going to either motivate people, or that violence was going to reflect current events and make people upset. I said, "No, it's going to get much worse than what we're doing." I kind of was hoping that I wasn't going to be right but it's escalated so far past the violence in our movie which seems kind of cute at this point. It seems small compared to the size of homegrown terror that we have.

The division you depicted in God Bless America has only spread further apart in the last year, hasn't it?

Yeah, and it's funny because some of the early rants of Joel Murray's character in God Bless America seems to resonate with people now because of the environment we're in. I think that movie doesn't work for a good chunk of people because if they were rooting for the characters they wanted some sort of happy weird ending, like a Taxi Driver kind of ending that despite everything, this person ends up growing. Then other people I think didn't like it just because they weren't killing the people they wanted to see get killed.

But could you have ever anticipated years like 2016-17 when you made God Bless America?

No, not at all. Satire is really hard now because it's like a Vonnegut novel how insane what's going on. The fact that every day something new that's insane break. It's the status quo now. It's hard to keep up.

You've directed other creators' shows or talk shows. Was creating a narrative show in television different or similar to the indie movies you've done?

I would say it's closest to the indie movies that I've done but I've never dealt with television before, so it's completely different. It's strange for me. I just did that with Michael Patrick King and Bridgett Everett. We all wrote this pilot at Amazon. I felt it was a pretty good show and then it didn't get picked up. At the same time, I've never been involved with anything that had such a favorable response from people. So I'm finding TV very strange. That left me really scratching my head. I don't think it's down and out. I hope the show ends up somewhere else. People voted and they really liked it so that's why I'm confused. I think it was because there was a big administration shake up. I think we're the product of being another team's developed product.The majority of the cast were actors with Down Syndrome. I do believe we pulled it off. I felt there was a lot of heart in that show without being corny. It was all the things I like. It was awkward, it was a little satire and it was what people say is outrageous. There's a scene in the new series that I can't say, but God Bless America had that scene where Joel Murray's character shoots a baby. When I shot that scene I was like, "Isn't someone going to tell me we can't do this?" I did film something where I had a moment like that. We filmed something and I was like, "Really? No one's telling me? All right, let's keep shooting."

Which episode is it in?

There's a time traveling episode.

In a time travel episode, do you follow the Back to the Future rules, Bill and Ted rules or Terminator rules?

I'm more closed loop, definitely closed loop.

Now that everyone is terrified of clowns again thanks to scary clowns and Pennywise, have you ever thought about bringing back Shakes the Clown?

Oh, that's funny. No. We did a 25th anniversary screening and I was really surprised and happy with the turnout. That movie, people really hated when it came out. It was really nice. Sandler even showed up to it. It was really sweet. I always think if I was ever to go back to Shakes, I would do the prequel. I would do an angry teen angst ridden James Dean kind of movie.

Cast your younger self?

Yeah, in the origin story of Shakes and Binky, why he's an alcoholic. You see his dad die in the horrible elephant mishap that they allude to.

Now that it's 25 years into your directing career, have you succeeded in reinventing your image and being seen as a filmmaker?

I don't ever really consider how I'm seen, but it's a little frustrating. I can't blame people. I've had this body of work, seven movies, four of them at Sundance. Then when I have a new project come out and it says, "Bobcat Goldthwait, Police Academy," I get it that's probably the most famous thing people know me from, but I did those movies in my early '20s. If I was just a filmmaker that people were just discovering, it'd be like you're a filmmaker like Sean Baker and then they say, "Sean Baker was in a sketch group in college." It's like he's done other things on his road to get to where he is. That's frustrating but if I got hung up on it I would just be bitter and crazy, and I'm lucky that I got a second act.

Do you know what you're doing after Misfits & Monsters?

I'm working with Judd Apatow. We're making the documentary Call Me Lucky into a narrative film. So I'll be writing and directing and Judd's writing and producing.

Have you cast?

Oh no, I haven't even read the script yet but that's where we're at.

Did you have any Misfits & Monsters episodes you didn't get to and would want to do in season two?

Oh yeah, there's eight episodes but I have so many already outlined. So if there's a second season, that'll be great but if not, I'll save them for feature ideas.

Since Black Mirror is on Netflix, people skip around. Do you like having this on week to week and determining the order?

I don't know. Let's be honest, there is something about sitting down and watching a whole season of something. I just hope that people are excited enough about the show that they watch week to week.

Have you curated the order strategically?

No, no, no, and they really are completely different. I think that's a hurdle to get past if people watch the Bubba episode and next week they go, "Where's Seth Green?"