The old vaudeville stripper motto in Gypsy was "you gotta get a gimmick." It works just as well nowadays, and not just for strippers. It's also perfect for comedians. Drew Carey talks about his weight, Jeffrey Ross reads poetry, and Bobcat Goldthwait has that voice -- the trademark multi-octave, avalanche-of-emotions-at-once instrument that has landed him plenty of parts. Sure, most of these parts have been in cartoons such as The Tick and The Simpsons, forgettable television movies, and the sequel city known as Police Academy, but he's still alive and kicking, or rather shrieking and stuttering his way onto celluloid.
Goldthwait has tried in the 14 years since his debut in Police Academy 2 to become more than the gimmicky-voiced actor. He wrote, directed, and starred in Shakes the Clown, which the Boston Globe called the "Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies" -- a dubious honor. Though panned by critics, Shakes developed a cult following. Maybe one day it will be the late-night picture show of choice with teens dressing in clown gear and making balloon animals at midnight screenings.
Goldthwait is the walking definition of unpredictable, usually going beyond zany straight for unnerving with the force of a Mack truck. Occasionally he goes overboard and reaches just-plain-scary territory, such as when he smashed monitors on The Arsenio Hall Show and set a chair on fire on The Tonight Show.
Then it looked as though fatherhood had tamed him. Recently he's been running the kiddy circuit, providing voices for the Disney film Hercules, two Disney television shows, bunny puppet Mr. Floppy on Unhappily Ever After, and even a talking animal movie for the Family Channel called Dog's Best Friend. But, to prove that he wasn't going soft, along came cable network FX's Bobcat's Big-Ass Show, a raunchy game show that involves goofy games, cheesy prizes, two model-dancer sidekicks called the Wing Ding Dancers, and a wardrobe of straw cowboy hats and suits that probably once belonged to used-car salesmen or '70s-era pimps. Anyone who thinks the show pushes the limits of acceptability should stay away -- far away -- from Hyena's this weekend, because Goldthwait says the restraints of television slip away and allow him to be more wild in his stand-up. More wild than spraying a fire extinguisher up Kathie Lee Gifford's skirt or getting naked on Hollywood Squares? This is gonna be great.
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