Bobcat Goldthwait may not be household name (unless maybe you’re a big Police Academy fan), but the standup comedian once famed for his shrieking delivery has since injected his unorthodox humor into his sensibilities as a filmmaker, earning a reputation as a niche auteur with his catalogue of incisive, unflinching films. He’s confronted sexual taboos in Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad, tackled bleak surrealism and satire with Shakes the Clown and God Bless America, and kept busy directing a string of standup comedy specials and three years (more than 250 episodes!) of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Now, with his new TruTV series Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters, he’s bringing his satirical slant to the half-hour format in a anthological series that highlights the absurdities of modern day America.
The result (at least in the three episodes provided to critics) is something of a mixed bag of hits and misses, culled from the tradition of The Twilight Zone, though more overtly comedic and less spooky than that lineage. The standout episode is “Face in the Car Lot’” (a parody of Face in the Crowd), a 1970s-set yarn created with impressive production value, Goldthwait none-too-subtly takes on the the era of Trump, depicting the political rise of a sleazy car salesman who also happens to be a literal monster. Played with unhinged verve by David Koechner, the anti-intellectual politician has a lot of swagger, but he’s also a werewolf. Who eats toddlers. But nobody cares. It’s pointed and a bit too on the nose to be revelatory, but Goldthwait makes his point and his point is, we’re screwed. There’s a cynical bent to much of the satire in Misfits & Monsters, whether Goldthwait’s addressing the perils of Trumpian America or the cost of fame and fortune.
In “Devil in the Blue Jeans,” Goldthwait skewers the Biebers and One Directions of the world with a mockumentary investigating the disappearance of a world famous pop star, who may have made a deal with the Devil. Michael Ian Black brings a wry, chipper spin on Satan himself and the episode has no shortage of laughs, but ultimately if “Devil in the Blue Jeans” is one of the most fun episodes, it’s also the most inconsequential. Goldthwait says nothing here that hasn’t been said before and better about the price of fame and the types of people who find success in the spotlight. But maybe there’s just no room for pop music mockumentary after Popstar perfected the genre.
With “Bubba the Bear,” Goldthwait brings a more personal spin to the perils of performance with the story of an alter-ego who springs to life, chock full of threats and menace. Seth Green plays a voice actor famous for his performance as B-B-B-Bubba the Bear, but when the animated bear transcends the screen into the real world, the actor finds himself fighting for his life and his sanity as his famed character haunts him at every turn. It’s a familiar experience for Goldthwait, who can’t quite escape the legacy of his high-pitched stage character of yore. But even in an episode so rooted in his own life experience (though Goldthwait says he didn’t realize the connection until his daughter, series costume designer Tasha Goldthwait, pointed it out to him), it doesn’t reach the heights of creative accomplishment his films have proven him capable of.
Ultimately, I suspect it comes down to a matter of on-screen real estate — Goldthwait has a limited timeframe to tell his micro stories, which means he can’t dig (or cut) as deep as his best work. With films like World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America, Goldthwait takes the audience on a journey through the bleak, dismal and scummy parts of the human experience and lands surprisingly emotional punch by the time the film’s end, but in Misfits & Monsters, the truncated runtime prevents him from landing those more sensitive, thoughtful beats. That said, he continues to be one of the most idiosyncratic creative voices in entertainment, and there are few filmmakers better poised tackle these absurd and unwieldy times we live in. You can bet I’ll be tuning in to see what else Goldthwait has up his sleeve, even if Misfits & Monsters is the snack-sized version of his signature satire.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters premieres Wednesday, July 11th on truTV.