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A Dog, a Dad, a Bobcat

Bobcat Goldthwait is off the endangered species list


He's not dead. Forty-seven-year-old comedian Bobcat Goldthwait is alive and well, writing and directing dark little indie films such as the beastly Sleeping Dogs Lie (2006), and the black comedy, World's Greatest Dad, due out next month, both of which were picked up by Magnolia pictures after receiving critical acclaim at Sundance. To fund his filmmaking, Goldthwait still does the occasional stand-up gig including a stop in Boise on Saturday, July 18, at the Knitting Factory.

Goldthwait's acting credits span three decades and include B-movies, B-television and voicing animated characters. He played Zed, the neurotic, screaming, bad-guy-turned-cadet--a character close to his onstage persona--in three installments of the '80s franchise Police Academy; he played disgruntled worker Eliot Loudermilk opposite Bill Murray in Scrooged (1986); he was Whoopi Goldberg's sweet sidekick Carl Hefler in Burglar (1987); and he played the title role in Shakes the Clown (1991), which he also directed. He was a regular contributor on HBO's Comic Relief (1986, 1987, 1989, 1994). He's also the guy who set fire to the set of The Tonight Show (1994).

Goldthwait moved from in front of the camera to direct television shows such as The Man Show, Chappelle's Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live! It's behind the camera where his passion lies.

World's Greatest Dad stars Robin Williams, with whom Goldthwait has been friends for nearly 30 years. Williams plays Lance Clayton, a disenfranchised high-school poetry teacher, raising a hormonally charged, foul-mouthed teenage son who abhors him. Lance takes advantage of a tragedy to gain the fame and fortune he's yearned for, but at what price? The trailer for World's Greatest hints at the film's mystery without giving the secret away.

"I'm really happy with the trailer because we don't give out the plot. And we don't give out the biggest laughs," Goldthwait said, his voice low and gravelly. "I'm not trying to keep the plot out of the press because I'm trying to do a bait-and-switch. I'm not trying to do Marley and Me where you go, 'Oh my god, Marley's dead!'"

The trailer does have three or four tantalizing, laugh-out-loud moments and promises a film in which Williams shines with much of the credit going to Goldthwait.

"Robin said to me while we were making it that he'd never felt safer," Goldthwait said. Williams and Goldthwait tried new things, they talked about changes, but Goldthwait never said, "OK, Robin. Go be funny." The weight of the film's laughs lie on both men's shoulders.

Though the kickers in his last two films are bestiality and masturbation, believe it or not, Goldthwait has grown up since the days when he entered a stage yelling. Even his standup has matured and he takes it as seriously as he does his filmmaking. Making audiences laugh using his own material is, strangely, where he feels safe, too. He said he may never direct another writer's screenplay. He can't take another heartbreak.

"If a good screenplay comes to my house, it already has coffee stains from Spike Jones and Jason Reitman," Goldthwait said. "The first time I got passionate about a screenplay someone else wrote, it was down to me and this other guy. They were like, 'You're the guy we're going to hire,' and then they hired the guy who directed Kung Fu Panda. It's just a lot of hurt."

Saturday, July 18, 9:30 p.m., $20, Knitting Factory, 416 S. Ninth St., 208-367-1212,