An Interview with Bobcat Goldthwait on the Cult Movie Classic, Windy City Heat
A while back I hosted a weekend at The Comedy Connection in Rhode Island. The headliner was Bobcat Goldthwait, and I was very excited. I was excited mainly for reasons the average person familiar with Bobcat may not be: his films.
One film in particular, “Windy City Heat.” (WCH)
WCH aired on Comedy Central in 2004 and is available on DVD.
It’s difficult to explain if you haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a reality movie that’s part documentary, part elaborate prank. It focuses on failed open mic comic, Perry F. Caravello and his journey through the auditioning and making of his first major film alongside cohorts and puppet string pullers Don Barris and Walter “Mole” Molininsky as they torment and help him along the way. By the time the film was made they had been working with each other on “The Perry Project” at The Comedy Store and on Cable Access for over ten years.
Before reading on I encourage you to see “Windy City Heat” or read the brief history (where the movie can also be viewed in full) at Thebig3project.com or on YouTube.
I was dying to know anything about the process. I was hoping to get some questions from The Big 3 Fanclub, a Facebook group of diehard fans who follow the activities of the stars of WCH in their current endeavor, The Big 3 podcast.
I made a list from what they gave me (some serious, some tongue in cheek) and added in some of my own. I knew I would have to show some restraint to not bother him until after the show and at the same time not come off as overbearing or stalkerish.
As it happened, his latest film, “Willow Creek” (a found footage Bigfoot film) was premiering in London while he was in a comedy club doing what has essentially become his ‘day job’: helping to raise money to make the kind of films he wants to make. The reviews were coming in and they were all positive, so things were going well.
In the green room Bobcat took time to talk to me about standup and was friendly and polite. Eventually, I got to bring up Windy City Heat, because he mentioned that none of his movies have big cult followings.
I had to speak up!
It was as if the list of questions by the Big 3 Fanclub, who definitely constitute as a cult following, (and are known also as ‘Javaho Nation’) compelled me to. There are already over 1,000 people that are in the fan club and for the most part, we found each other accidentally or by chance.
We talked a little while about WCH and I told him about the questions I had for him and he agreed to do an interview later in the weekend.
It turned out to be the very last part of the weekend, around 12:30am, Sunday morning. I’ve waited to publish it for a few reasons. Willow Creek is now out on VOD, Amazon, iTunes, etc and Bobcat will be back in the New England area this September. Also, after a short hiatus, The Big 3 have resumed podcasting bi-weekly (at www.thebig3podcast.com) and are shooting a pilot Aug 15-16 in Los Angeles. (Fans are encouraged to attend.)
Matt: How in tune were you with ‘The Perry Project’?
Bobcat: I met the whole gang when I was working over at The Man Show, so that’s how I got involved. I’m a latecomer to the Perryverse.
Matt: Did you ever go see him at The Ding Dong Show or did they just show you tapes?
Bobcat: Yeah they showed me tapes, they gave me a ton of Perry’s (Simply Don The Public Access Show) tapes.
Matt: Awesome. Now keep in mind there are some joke questions in here but, What’s the worst part about working with Perry?
Bobcat: Um, well his overall kick ass charm and take no prisoner’s attitude is really intimidating.
Matt: What was your favorite bit that didn’t make the final cut of the film?
Bobcat: Well it didn’t make it to Comedy Central but it did make it to DVD, when Perry, uh…(laughs) when Travis Bickle says “I’m not gonna sleep with you.” ” I don’t sleep with guys.” That whole bit wasn’t in the film.
Matt: Oh, wow. Now Perry is known for emulating Sam Kinnison washe aware that he emulated you or looked at you different based on your standup persona?
Bobcat: No, I don’t think Perry was ever a fan of me as a comedian.
Bobcat: Yeah, I think during the part where the craft service table of donuts got flipped over, I thought someone was gonna get hurt then.
Matt: What was the hardest part about working with hidden cameras? Did you see it all as it was happening? Were you in a truck?
Bobcat: Yeah, that (screen) split in the beginning of the movie, that was on my video tap. I could always see 80% of the cameras most of the time. It’s a weird thing when you’re making a movie though, when you don’t really have rehearsals with the lead actor. It’s probably a lot like it was making a movie with Frank Sinatra.
Matt: How much rehearsing was done before he arrived?
Bobcat: A lot, like 3 or 4 hours of rehearsing and with Perry you really only had one take of what was gonna go down.
Matt: With what you had rehearsed what do you think was the thing that came together the best?
Bobcat: I think the red bat/blue bat scene, I think that played but that really has more to do with Don and Mole really knowing how Perry is going to react.
Matt: What about a moment where it wasn’t rehearsed?
Bobcat: A lot of stuff like that would happen. So much of the Burt Ward stuff kind of just snowballed and became the whole bit.
Matt: How long did Perry think the movie was cancelled for after he knocked over the craft service table?
Bobcat: It was a weekend, because they came back and had that meeting, so it was a weekend of almost being suicidal, you know?
Matt: Did you spend any time on the phone with him?
Bobcat: No, but mostly Don would keep in touch with Perry.
Matt: You said when you were filming there was a culture of paranoia where you thought you were being videotaped.
Bobcat: Yeah, because there’s so many cameras and we’re recording so much stuff. When I would go in the bathroom I’d feel like I was being filmed. When I went home I felt like the cameras were on. And you know crew guys knew it was the real (William) Refrigerator Perry and so it must be the real Ernie Banks and Ansel Adams so it wasn’t just Perry the lines were blurred for.
Matt: Do you ever in general as a film maker have dreams where you’re seeing things through a viewfinder, like its a movie?
Bobcat: No…but it sounds like I’m lying, my perception of what was real and what wasn’t was definitely getting blurry.
Matt: Do you ever think the film would have turned out differently if you had went with Carson Daly?
Bobcat: I think it would have been more commercial.
Matt: How clued in to the Perry Project were some of the people?
Bobcat: I think Carson was nervous. (laughs)
Matt: Now the actual script of Windy City Heat..how much of that is there?
Bobcat: I don’t know if that made the cut but we talked about how I work like Woody Allen and I only allow certain pages to go out.
Matt: Ah, that’s something that maybe exists only in the rumored 6 or 14 hour cuts of the movie. On that note was there ever talk about it being a series on Comedy Central?
Bobcat: I think that nowadays with digital platforms and webisodes that’s probably how it would have gone and come out. Probably the four hour version or you could still cut up the 90 minute version into a couple of episodes. It might have been more popular like that but you know what? Unlike the other movies I make, I write and direct them, this was the first one that I contributed to but I didn’t write it so I’m comfortable in saying that I really do think it’s hilarious. I wouldn’t say that about a movie that I wrote because that would be kind of obnoxious but I do know that it’s one of the funniest movies ever made.
Matt: How about the movie since then? How did you take it after it was released? I know it aired only a few times on Comedy Central but it won the Best Film award at the Montreal Comedy Festival, and The Big 3 has reformed with the podcast, they had the celebration at The Windy Weekend, but how in tune are you, do you listen to the podcast?
Bobcat: I listen to the podcast sometimes. I haven’t listened to it in a while but you know I still get involved when they put up the bat signal and want me to come to something. I have a soft spot for those guys but I’m usually working on my own stuff.
Matt: Do you think it could ever work today for a video shorts series? Comedy Central has their digital studios…
Bobcat: I don’t know if Comedy Central really gives a shit about Windy City Heat, you know everyone in that movie is in their 30’s or older so how could it be funny?
Matt: I just think it was such a unique and great collaboration…
Bobcat: It was this really weird perfect storm of crazy that all the parts collaborated and made this thing bigger than the whole.
Matt: What do you think the craziest thing you’ve seen in this ‘world’ was.
Bobcat: I remember I went to pick up Perry out of the hospital so he could appear on the Kimmel Show. He’s in the hospital bed with his neck brace on. As I’m walking out the doctor said “Are you- oh my God, are you Bobcat Goldthwaite? OK, this is all making sense.” I asked him if he was really hurt and he said, “No, get him out of here.” I climb in bed with Perry to take a picture and think there’s real people out in the emergency room…
– Follow Bobcat Goldthwait on Twitter @BCGoldthwait
– “Willow Creek” is now out on iTunes and Amazon for sale or rental. Check it out!
– See Bobcat live when he headlines Halligan’s in Auburn, MA. Saturday September 27th at 8pm. Tickets on sale at www.ticketsforcomedy.com.
– If you live in the California area be sure to check out the Big 3 live for free at The World Famous Comedy Store on The Ding Dong Show Monday August 18 at 10pm.
– Follow Matt Kona on Twitter at @MattKona or check out http://www.mattkona.com/.