Clowns are very mad at Bobcat Goldthwait.
We don't make this stuff up, folks. Clowns--yeah, really, the kind with rubber noses and big shoes--are upset about the way they're depicted in "Shakes the Clown," Goldthwait's new film about a less-than-wholesome band of clowns who hang out in a bar called the Twisted Balloon.
Clowns without a sense of humor? Leave it to Bobcat to bring a brand-new special interest group out of the woodwork.
At the Improv Monday night, Goldthwait seemed more than a little bewildered by the attention generated by his little film (which he has taken to calling "The Last Temptation of Bozo"). He'd come to Brea straight from taping the "Dennis Miller Show," where he discussed the controversy; last week, he actually debated a fully outfitted clown live on the "Today" show.
"I didn't make this movie because I hated clowns, but I hate 'em now," he said on stage Monday. "Kids hate clowns. You know why clowns go visit hospitals? Because the kids can't get up and run away."
Goldthwait has what might euphemistically be called a distinctive style. Talking in strangled bursts while lurching nervously about the stage and forever running his hand through his lank, thinning hair, Goldthwait offers comedy that always threatens to veer into abject desperation.
Admitting he was a bit rusty at stand-up, Goldthwait didn't bring much of a cohesive act to Brea. His material ranged all over the map, but the stops frequently were hilarious. He spewed invective with a bite and conviction that doesn't often surface in a stand-up universe that too often is glib and toothless.
His targets included such figures as Axl Rose, Sam Kinison, George Bush and Anaheim's own Rev. Lou Sheldon. He offered a deadly impersonation of U2's Bono singing an emotion-drenched rendition of the Village People's "YMCA" ("I gotta get earnest first," he said as he paused before the bit).
Brea itself, always a favorite target of visiting comics, also came under some not-so-friendly fire. "I've been in movies, and I've been on television," he told the crowd, just after taking the stage, "but I can't tell you what a thrill it is to be in a mini-mall tonight."
The audience seemed unwilling at times to follow Goldthwait on his meandering path; people shouted requests and suggestions every time he paused or appeared heading into difficult terrain.
At one disturbing point, Goldthwait drew scattered applause when he mentioned gay-bashing; there was an embarrassed silence when it became apparent that the comic was launching into a diatribe against the practice.
"This is a spooky, spooky white neighborhood," Goldthwait said at one point. "If I was on the street tonight, I'd have cops saying, 'Can I help you?' "
But some of the funniest observations were directed at himself and his own precarious niche, between fame and semi-obscurity. People on the street, he said, sometimes confuse him with one of the backwoods brothers (Larry, Darryl and Darryl) on "Newhart." And when he rides in a limo, he's not enjoying the ride; he's wondering if he is sitting in a puddle of "prom vomit."
"If people don't go to this movie," he said, referring again to "Shakes," "I'm about five or six months away from doing boat shows with David Hasselhof."
He worried out loud about his hair loss ("every year, I look more and more like Benjamin Franklin") and about being a father. "Having me as a dad, there's a (bunch) of prestige there," he said. "That's like having Curly of the Three Stooges as your father."
Goldthwait brought along lifelong pal and fellow comic Tom Kenny, who plays the evil rival Binky in "Shakes." Kenny, who is scheduled to return to the Brea Improv in June, is a fast-talking, high-strung comic whose brief guest set included some hilarious highlights.
Among them was a dead-on routine on the commandments of the cartoon universe (owls must always wear graduation caps) and some funny observations on the success of the film "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," which he called a yuppie horror movie.
"What's a yuppie's worst nightmare?" he asked. "Bad domestic help. Aaaaahhhh!!!"