CL: Starting out, I want you to know I think God Bless America was great.
Goldthwait: The reason I made the movie was to ask, “Why do we have the distractions?” We’re not really connecting as people. Why are we preoccupied with shit?
You were wildly successful at directing Jimmy Kimmel’s show. My guess is this had a lot to do with you being a live comedian.
That success is because of him. But I guess when directing a live show … it helps being a standup comedian — you tend not to panic.
You opened for Nirvana on their final North American tour. How did this come about?
Well … it’s always a surprise when people learn Kurt [Cobain] was a big fan of my standup. ... It’s very flattering to have someone so influential even acknowledge that you’re alive. I met them before they became successful. Kurt interviewed me on a college radio station and gave me a copy of Bleach…. [Pause] My cat just knocked something over on my guitar.
That sucks. [Laughing] Why is God Bless America important for everyone to watch?
It isn’t. I think it was just me trying to shoot a flare up and see if other folks see things the same as myself. I wasn’t trying to change the world — just see if there were other folks as frustrated as I am.
Given the recent devastating [Sandy Hook] school shooting, is there any sense in which you want to contextualize the violence of God Bless America? Violence is the way the protagonist solves problems.
This movie is not an accurate portrayal of reality. It’s a call for kindness. It was done in a shocking and comedic way. You don’t reach the people if you make a movie that’s not on their playing field…. When celebrities talk about these things, it tends to trivialize it. ... When real tragedy affects people, everybody makes it about themselves…. The decent thing to do is back off and let people have their space.
What do you like specifically about directing?
You know, the fact that it’s not an exact science…. I think it’s the most exciting job you can have in show business.
In a perfect world, what would be a reasonable punishment for Simon Cowell?
Actually forced to listen to the music that he encourages when he’s not working.
Why do you think Americans enjoy watching vulnerable people get hurt — emotionally and physically — on TV and other media?
You stay closest to the biggest bullies so that you don’t get singled out and ridiculed.
What is better about popular entertainment these days? Are there ways in which it has become a more effective, open system?
Yeah … you can be making a product for a small audience and reach them. On a high level, there’s Louis CK. On a small level, I make these movies for a small audience — that didn’t used to be the case. The problem now is there’s no middle. There’s no $10 million or $20 million movie for adults. People who are making movies are stuck with a tiny budget. I don’t mind that as an artist. But I don’t think it’s fair to adults, who wish there were more movies being made that are trying to speak to them.