Comedians Bobcat Goldthwait and Dana Gould document their latest comedy tour in Joy Ride, out in theatres and on demand October 29th. The film, directed by Goldthwait, takes an intimate look at the evolution of their friendship and examines struggles they each endured at various points in their careers. Goldthwait intersperses childhood photos with on- and off-stage clips from their tour, as well as fascinating archival footage from various career-defining moments for both performers.
Goldthwait and Gould have been active in Hollywood since a young age. Goldthwait, perhaps best known for his roles in Scrooged and the Police Academy franchise, has maintained a career in Hollywood as a comedian, writer and director since making his debut performance on The David Letterman Show at age 20. Dana Gould, perhaps best known for his work as a staff writer on The Simpsons, has worked professionally in comedy since the age of 17. Goldthwait has focused his creative efforts in recent years on directing feature films, including World’s Greatest Dad starring Robin Williams, Willow Creek and God Bless America. Gould created and executive-produced IFC’s horror comedy Stan Against Evil and continues to perform stand-up regularly across the country.
Joy Ride explores their relationship, which started as a rivalry between peers but has transformed into one of mutual admiration. The Joy Ride tour is fairly bare-bones: Goldthwait and Gould drive themselves from one location to the next, reminiscing about the past and cracking each other up. Early on in the film, the two performers get into a near-fatal car accident—resulting in a trip to the Emergency Room, a concussion and broken ribs. They go on to perform their first show shortly afterward.
I spoke to Goldthwait and Gould about making Joy Ride and Goldthwait’s inclusion of some less-than-flattering clips of himself in the film. We also discussed how the two comedians were able to find grounding during more difficult periods in their careers and Goldthwait’s contentious relationship with Jerry Seinfeld.
Risa Sarachan: What was it like for the two of you watching the finished film for the first time?
Bobcat Goldthwait: For me, it was really strange because I’ve directed a lot of stuff, and I always have small screenings with friends to see what’s tracking. When I did World’s Greatest Dad, I actually had the late-night cleaning staff come in and watch the movie with me so I could see if it worked. Because of the pandemic, I had never been in a room with one person who watched this movie. The editors and I were not even in the same room. I was way more freaked out than I usually am. I was relieved that they liked it. It was also interesting to see if the narrative played for people, and it seemed to.
It sounds pretentious, but as a storyteller, there has to be a narrative. I had to include stuff where I don’t look very good in regards to Dana’s and my relationship. There is a point at the show where I’m being very cruel and being a bully. It’s a really short clip, but it’s funny after it played, I couldn’t buy a laugh in that theatre for about seven minutes, but I knew we needed a villain. Suddenly, everyone was not a big fan of the old Bobscratch Goldfarb. [Laughs].
Sarachan: That’s got to be a challenge, being both director and cast member.
Goldthwait: Yeah, and I kind of knew that I would have to show myself in an unflattering light if I wanted the narrative to work.
Sarachan: It seems like you both love each other and love touring together so much. I’m wondering what separate of the harrowing car accident –
Goldthwait: Here’s the thing, I love Dana. Dana can’t say that to me because Dana has got a lot of issues.
Dana Gould: No-
Goldthwait: You disagree with me? You’ve never said those words out loud. [Laughs].
Gould: I’m going to tell Bob I love him for the first time in the pages of Forbes. I will say that this is a 30-year-old line from my act, and it explains a lot. The only thing I hate more than myself is everything else. It’s Bob’s movie, and I’m just in it. I marvel at what he did and how he managed to create a narrative structure and a narrative thrust because I’m a writer, and so for me, I can construct it in my mind and put it on paper, and then it’s filmed. He had to assemble it for preexisting stuff. I really marvel that there is an actual movie there. I was a little skittish about divulging so much personal stuff about people in my family, not necessarily myself, because I can take responsibility for myself. But I actually thought it was handled really brilliantly. I think it’s very loving.
Sarachan: I love that you both shared your personal struggles with mental health issues. Bobcat, the film describes the period of time when you were really disenchanted with your industry and what you were doing even though you were successful. What would you tell artists who might be struggling in a similar way?
Goldthwait: This sounds pretentious, but I will say it because I just went through it myself. I found that I was up on stage, and I was not truly honest because I didn’t want to upset the audience because we were so split. And then I had to be truthful, and if I lost a few people, which I believe I did when Dana and I were in Texas, I’ve just got to be honest.
That little voice in your head is 100% right. If you’re saying, hey, I don’t feel like doing this. Step aside and say, do I not want to do this because of fear? If it’s fear, then you probably should do it. But if [you] don’t want to do [something] because it doesn’t feel right. Then you should walk away.
Sarachan: Yeah, like your commencement speech at Hampshire College about quitting.
Goldthwait: Yeah, but I didn’t put in the following line which is: keep quitting until you end up someplace you don’t want to leave. I’ve done that over and over again in my career. I think people think that people stopped hiring me as an actor because I make the joke; I retired at the same time they stopped hiring me. But the reality is that I do get asked to be on shows, and I chose not to because I just am so happy telling stories behind the camera and doing stand-up. I don’t think people would believe that I would walk away from doing that in front of the camera, but it doesn’t make me happy.
Sarachan: How did both of you access creativity during the pandemic?
Gould: [Poor reception on the phone line] Sorry, it’s very windy here today in California. LA is the only place on earth where the wind is news. We are going to go live to talk to some victims of the wind!
Goldthwait: I was able to work on this documentary, and I have a couple of screenplays I worked on. I wrote a movie that’s like a G-rated film. [It’s] very hopeful. It’s a family picture. I felt like that was the most punk rock thing I could do right now was to write a hopeful narrative. I did God Bless America, and I just saw how dark things were getting. I was questioning, where are we going? It actually got worse than I imagined, but I feel like being snarky right now would be a natural extension, and I thought the real challenge was to make something hopeful and sweet.
Gould: We both did the same thing in a different way. This would answer the previous question in terms of advice you give to people. In terms of performing, always do what you think is funny. That would be extended to, if you don’t want to do a thing, do something else. Do what you like.
What I did during the pandemic was, because everything was so heavy and important, I wanted to do something very stupid. [Laughs]. I did a YouTube series called Hanging with Doctor Z, which is basically a talk show starring Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes as if he was Merv Griffin. I did it with a friend of mine. The first time we shot it, the guests were sort of snarky in a Between Two Ferns kind of way, and we realized that it didn’t work at all. That the vibe had to be very positive and warm, or the joke didn’t work.
Goldthwait: What’s interesting is that I feel like that’s not a cop-out. The cop-out would have been where we were trying to make it to appeal to everybody, and Dana and I both made a decision not to try to appeal to everybody. We both, in our own way, decided not to dogpile on the collective hopelessness. With Dana, the show is really silly and really super funny. I’ve never seen him happier than when he’s dressed as an orangutan. He is so happy. There’s no filter. It’s like Jiminy Glick if he was an orangutan.
Gould: We just finished shooting the second season this week. It’s as stupid as we could make it. [Laughs]. Even my girlfriend said, “when you’re in that whole thing, you’re gone. You don’t walk the same. You don’t talk the same.” [Laughs]. For better or for worse, I just do what I like. Sometimes it really resonates, and sometimes it doesn’t. When I was a writer on The Simpsons, the stuff I liked was an important element in a much larger room with other voices, but I had a real good mastery of that wedge of the pie. I could make a lot more money pretending to be outraged at encroaching woke culture, but I’d rather saw my head off. I’d much rather dress as Dr. Zaius.
Sarachan: Going back to the tour, do you have any memories of that harrowing car accident and then having to perform?
Goldthwait: Dana remembers the accident, and I actually don’t. I remember getting in an argument with the doctor because he asked me my name and I told him I was Bobcat, and he said my name was Robert because clearly, they had signed me in with my license. I got really upset. I don’t remember much of it.
Gould: What do you want to know, Risa? I was there the whole time.
Sarachan: Well, I watched some interviews of you guys talking about it, and it’s so fascinating.
Goldthwait: Apparently, we watched some documentaries that I don’t remember either.
Gould: I can’t stop, or I will begin to feel. So, the next day I went out to lunch with Charlie Fonville, our producer, and then Bob and I watched the documentary, the Rolling Thunder Review, the Bob Dylan documentary that was out at the time, and he has no memory of it at all. He sat there for three hours.
Goldthwait: Yeah, I was looking through Netflix, and I was like, I should watch that, and I mentioned that to Dana. Dana was like; you saw that. [Laughs].
Gould: You know the clip in the movie of you giving me a hard time when my parents were there in the audience?
Gould: Do you remember that?
Goldthwait: No, but it feels right.
Gould: I have no memory of that at all.
Goldthwait: I know that I used to be very cruel to you.
Gould: Not just me though, give yourself credit, Bob.
Goldthwait: Yeah, that’s true. I was an asshole to a lot of people. But I was extra cruel to you. You know, what’s funny that just dawned on me is that I would be extra cruel to Dana because I felt he was derivative of Tom Kenny, and clearly, that’s probably the part of me that I have to come to terms with because I’ve totally been influenced by Tom Kenny and I saw that in Dana maybe.
Gould: As we are talking about it, Bob had this group of friends, and then he moved to San Francisco, and then right after he moved, I moved to Boston and became friends with all of those people. I was very young, and I was absorbing personas and trying to find myself, never mind as a performer but as a person. I was probably 19, but emotionally I was probably closer to 13 by nature of my upbringing. So as we were talking about it, Bob said, “I guess I also felt like you stole all of my friends.” I was like, “I thought that’s what it always was. It was something else?” [Laughs].
Goldthwait: [Laughs]. Look, I have many resentments towards everybody. I just have to go through my Rolodex and remember, oh, this is why I don’t like this person, x, y, and z.
Sarachan: Doesn’t that start to fade off a little?
Goldthwait: I don’t know if it’s just age or maturity, or I don’t have the energy to be mad. I think I just chose my targets a little bit more. I really don’t have an ax to grind with Seinfeld. That’s really true. But it was just so funny on his tv show when he spent that time-[Laughs].
Sarachan: Yeah, I know the clip you’re referring to. I felt so bad for Bridget Everett. She looked so uncomfortable.
Gould: He willingly made himself look awful. I don’t know if that’s willingly self-aware of him or a complete lack of self-awareness.
Goldthwait: I read in an interview he said that was his favorite part of the season. When he put that out there, I felt like a retired gunslinger. He called me out, and now I have to get my 45s off the wall and go into the town square. I’m like, do you really want to get into shit-talking with me? Are you crazy? I mean, I was one of the people that planted the flag on bashing people, and I don’t even like that part of me, but it’s like, alright, one more time I’ll go and meet him in the square. [Laughs].
Gould: Bob and Jerry are meeting behind the gym.
Goldthwait: I choose to do the kinds of things that make me happy without wondering who it’s going to appeal to.
Gould: The really unseemly part of it, I was on Seinfeld, I know him. She’s visibly uncomfortable, and he’s laughing at her discomfort. That to me, I think, is the thing that’s really off-putting on that. He’s like, “I don’t care if this bothers you. I think it’s funny.” There is no, “I’m sorry, I know you’re friends with him, but I have to get this off my chest.” I’ve done that, I know you’re friends with this person, and that’s fine. This is why that person drives me crazy. There’s none of that.
Sarachan: Yeah, I really connected to her feeling of discomfort. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. It’s a very strange moment, but I’m glad you included it in the film.
Goldthwait: Well, I wasn’t going to, and then I was like, we should just call the movie “Cease and Desist.”
Sarachan: Change of topic. I know you share a love of music. What were you listening to on the road?
Goldthwait: Who are we kidding? We’re never going to shut up. We don’t have time to listen to anything else besides each other. You know, I love my time touring with Dana, and we couldn’t have done it at any other point in our life. There were decisions I made in terms of shooting the movie. We could have had cameras in the front, but intentionally I wanted the camera operators to be in the back seat because I wanted the viewer to feel like they were in the car with us. They were on the ride. I also wanted us to get comfortable with the cameras being on us the whole time that we would really open up and not be performing for the camera. I think that we did that.
Gould: Even in the movie, at the very beginning, you look into the lens and crack a joke, and, eventually, we let our hair down.
Goldthwait: Or whatever’s on my head.
Gould: We let our hats down.
Sarachan: What are you working on next?
Goldthwait: Well, I did a narrative about my friend Barry Crimmins called Call Me Lucky and then [now I’m] working on a screenplay with Judd Apatow to turn into a narrative film that was a documentary on Barry.
Gould: I also have a podcast I do every month called The Dana Gould Hour. I’m writing a movie for money which is how I pay my mortgage.
Goldthwait: Wow, your enthusiasm!
Gould: I’m writing a movie about one of the tangential figures from Watergate. Someone who was a true believer, who had their life upended but was not one of the major players but a really interesting story.
Goldthwait: Which obviously applies to our current situation.
Gould: But I’m writing in full Planet of the Apes makeup, just so you know. [Laughs].
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Joy Ride is out in theatre and on demand October 29th.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Joy Ride releases in theaters and on demand on October 29th.