When they first started performing stand-up in the early 1980s, Bobcat Goldthwait and Dana Gould could not have been more different. And as they reveal in their new documentary Joy Ride, they “hated” each other’s comedy. But over the years, their styles converged and now they tour the country together, telling hilarious stories from their wild pasts and making each other laugh as hard as their audiences do.
In this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Goldthwait and Gould open up about their contentious past and reveal how a harrowing car accident on tour nearly cut their lives and careers short. They also share the truth behind Goldthwait’s decades-long feud with Jerry Seinfeld, what Robin Williams was really like when the cameras weren’t rolling, Gould’s favorite jokes he wrote for The Simpsons, and a lot more.
Seconds into our podcast taping, these two comedy frenemies are already ribbing each other, with Goldthwait calling Gould “grandpa” and Gould replying, “Bob, say something that would get you canceled.”
Taking a not-so-subtle swipe at Dave Chappelle, Goldthwait says that in order to get “canceled” these days, “you have to be a multimillionaire that’s thrown off when a marginalized group speaks up and complains about you,” adding, “I’m not a multimillionaire and I tend to side with marginalized groups, so I don’t think I am cancelable.”
When the pair started touring rock clubs together a few years back, they used to come out at the top of the show and flip a coin to see who would be headlining that night. At first, they worried that each other’s followers wouldn’t find them funny. “My fans don’t have sleeves and Dana’s fans start every sentence with…” Goldthwait says before Gould finishes the thought with, “Actually…”
“Then what we realized was, when we went out and flipped the coin, people seemed to be enjoying that show a lot more than our individual shows,” Goldthwait explains. “So we jettisoned that part of the show and then just would stay out on stage together the whole time.”
In the decades since his stand-up comedy heyday, which went up in literal flames when he set the Tonight Show set on fire, among other antics, Goldthwait has become a respected comedy director, helming his own features like World’s Greatest Dad, starring his best friend Robin Williams, and several major stand-up specials from Patton Oswalt, Cameron Esposito, Hari Kondabolu, Ron Funches, and others.
When he started thinking about turning their tour into a documentary special, Goldthwait was just as interested in capturing what was happening off-stage as he was in filming the actual shows.
“It has a story, in addition to a lot of funny stand-up,” Gould says. “I was really, really, really impressed with what he did and that he had the selflessness to make himself the villain.”
The film starts with Gould explaining that they didn’t like each other when they first met. “No, I hated you,” Goldthwait says, to which Gould quips, “Well, I hated me too.” Goldthwait replies, “So we had that in common.”
“At that point, I thought we might have an arc if we start with that,” Goldthwait explains now. “But then, as a storyteller, I knew that I had to apologize to Dana on camera.”
Asked if he really hated Gould or if it was just a convenient storytelling device, Goldthwait says, “Oh, it’s all true. I was very vicious to him. I was very cruel.” While Goldthwait was trying to use his outrageous on-stage persona to upend expectations about what stand-up comedy could be, he looked down on comedians like Gould, who he found “derivative” of more seasoned comics.
“Dana was always funny and he did really well, but he’s the first to say it—he never stole material, but he would be influenced by other folks,” Goldthwait says. “So I had a problem with him, but if we really psychoanalyze this, you are with your hate. There’s probably parts of me that I didn’t like in Dana. So I attacked him, but he was always funny. And then I saw him change and find his own voice and go from being someone who I didn’t think much of to being someone that I was slightly jealous of, which is the ultimate comedy compliment.”
“To me, the character that Bob did was always a parody of stand-up comedy,” Gould says, in turn. “This is the last guy on Earth that should be doing stand-up comedy. And I can see how very dyed-in-the-wool, traditional stand-up comedians would be offended and insulted by that.”
“Dana imploded. And I exploded,” Goldthwait adds, summing it all up. “I trashed my career. He trashed his brain, almost around the same time. And now we’ve come all the way through it.”
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