You haven't seen him for a while, but that doesn't mean Bobcat Goldthwait hasn't been busy.
The 50-year-old comic, known to the masses for his squeaky growl of a voice and roles in the 1980's "Police Academy" movies, has spent most of the last two decades behind the camera rather than in front of it.
As a screenwriter and director, Goldthwait has found humor — and positive reviews — in very dark places. His 2009 cult hit "World's Greatest Dad" starred Robin Williams as a father struggling with his relief at the death of his atrocious teenage son. His latest, "God Bless America," follows a cancer patient on a nationwide assault of the country's most awful celebrities.
Now Goldthwait is once again mining the pitch-black recesses of his mind — this time for new stand-up material. He'll be at the Tampa Improv from Saturday through Tuesday to tell jokes about divorce, going broke and making peace with his famous '80s persona.
Q: I've interviewed a few celebrities now, and they always call from a blocked phone number. Do you constantly have to guard your number when you're famous?
A: I'm just a little gun shy because I've had wacky morning radio shows get a hold of my number, and then they call and wake me up and abuse me. I think it's funny when I get calls from my friends and it's blocked because I'm like "Hey, man, I'm pushing it when I block my number, and you're even less famous than me — I'm barely famous."
Q: You've taken long breaks from stand-up. Didn't you say you retired at one point?
A: It wasn't really an announcement, like people cared or anything (laughs). It wasn't like Frank Sinatra retiring. I was directing the (Jimmy) Kimmel show full-time and I just didn't see myself going back to (stand-up). But you end up missing the live audience.
Q: So what brought you back to doing stand-up?
A: You know it's time when you start doing shows for your cat at nine o'clock at night.
Q: I loved "World's Greatest Dad," but that movie is really dark, to the point of being uncomfortable to watch. Is that what you were going for?
A: That's the kind of humor that interests me a lot, so that's where I go when I write movies. I write all different kinds of screenplays, but the majority of the comedies I write are only dark. I couldn't see myself doing like a regular pot comedy. That wouldn't interest me too much.
Q: It's kind of a cliché, but people say that comics are really dark people in their personal lives. Is that true?
A: Trust me, I have way less demons than the guys who write "Two and a Half Men." I exorcise most of my demons and darkness through my stand-up and movies. Honestly, I don't think the movies I make are that dark anyway. I think people are fed so much vanilla to digest that it makes my stuff seem dark.
Q: "God Bless America" is this really harsh attack on modern media and entertainment. What pushed you to make it?
I was working in London and they were having a marathon of "My Super Sweet 16." That was the tipping point. It really bothered me that was the show we were sending out to the rest of the world. With the movie I wanted to ask the question "where are we going as a people if this is entertainment?" Also I was wondering "am I part of the problem?" The movie is shocking, but I was trying to get people to ask themselves, "where is this going?"
Q: What comics do you like that are out there now?
A: I just directed Mark Maron in a new television show that starts next year, and I'm a big fan of Mark and "WTF." I also just worked with Chris Hardwick, which is great because I really like him, too. I've worked with a lot of people I admire, like Dave Chappelle and (Jimmy) Kimmel. It's nice when you can do that.
Q: Your last stand-up TV special was called "You Don't Look the Same Either." How does it usually go down when people recognize you on the street?
A: A lot of times they're surprised, because they think I'm dead. Other times it's these really weird conversations where they tell me how tall they were when they used to watch me. I don't know why, but guys always hold up their hand and say "I was this big when I watched you," and I'm like "I don't know what to do with that."
Q: Have you made peace with knowing some people will always know you best for your work in the 1980s?
A: I'm not really making movies for those folks. The people who enjoy my movies like stuff that is out of the mainstream. For lack of a better word, they like "alternative cinema," and that's exciting for me. But, yeah, I know that when I die the picture will be me in a police uniform. It wouldn't matter if I found the cure for AIDS, the obituary would say "Oh, yeah, he also cured AIDS," but the picture would be me from "Police Academy."
When: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday; Dec. 30, 7 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 and 10 p.m. Monday
Where: Tampa Improv, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa
Price: $20, $32, $46; www.improvtampa.com