Comedian Pleads No Contest in Fire : Court: Bobcat Goldthwait is fined $3,880 and ordered to promote burn center after setting chair ablaze on ‘The Tonight Show.’


Stand-up comedian Bobcat Goldthwait pleaded no contest Wednesday to setting his chair on fire during the May 6 taping of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and was fined $3,888 and ordered to tape public-service announcements to promote a Canoga Park burn center.

The New York-born entertainer made a personal appearance Wednesday at the Burbank courthouse, where he was ordered to pay a $2,700 fine and assessment, $698 to NBC for the damaged chair and almost $500 to the city of Burbank for investigating the incident, said Deputy City Atty. Robert Walters.

Goldthwait was also placed on three years informal probation and required to tape public-service announcements to promote the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation in Canoga Park.


Some of the 15- and 30-second messages have already been taped, and were handed to Walters Wednesday for distribution to television stations.

“We don’t think there was maliciousness here,” Walters said of the misdemeanor charge. “It was reckless. It was a joke gone bad.”

Goldthwait is believed to be the first guest of “The Tonight Show” to be charged with a crime, according to NBC.

The comedian used lighter fluid and a long-handled lighter to set his chair on fire as host Jay Leno and another guest, actress-model Lauren Hutton, looked on.

Leno and Hutton quickly doused the fire with cups of water, but Burbank fire officials worried that the flame could have quickly spread. The incident aired that night.

Goldthwait plead no contest to a charge of recklessly causing a fire, Walters said. A second misdemeanor charge of possessing a flammable substance with the intent to burn was dismissed by the Municipal Court commissioner who heard the case.


Under informal probation, Walters said, Goldthwait is not required to visit regularly with a probation officer. But if he gets in trouble with the law again, he may receive stiffer penalties for violating probation, Walters said.

“We’re pleased,” said Karen Brodkin, an attorney for Goldthwait. “We’d like to get everything behind us.”