Bobcat changes spots

Bobcat Goldthwait arrives at the opening night of “The Pee-Wee Herman Show” in January 2010 in Los Angeles.

MINNEAPOLIS — Bobcat Goldthwait is dead — at least the high-pitched, frantic, off-the-hook version who once tossed furniture off the set of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and lit the guest chair on fire on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

The comedian, who is turning 50, has settled down into a respectable career behind the scenes, helming “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for nearly three years and making dark, thought-provoking films, including 2009’s “World’s Greatest Dad,” which featured one of Robin Williams’ strongest performances, and “God Bless America,” a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde adventure.

Q. You said in 2005 that you were retiring from stand-up. Was that a joke?

A. I retired like Cher and KISS retire. I still like going out there, but I’m not doing my ’80s persona anymore. It became more and more limiting. I’m just myself. If I lose some fans because of that, it’s OK. I do try to defuse the situation early in my act. One of my favorite new jokes is that they’re going to reboot the “Police Academy” series like they did with “21 Jump Street,” except this time it’s going to be a comedy.

Q. You could easily have been remembered for just doing a puppet on “Unhappily Ever After” and being the guy from “Police Academy.” Instead, you’ve turned into a respected filmmaker. Was that always the plan?

A. No. It took me a long time to find what I enjoy doing the most before I got sidetracked. I was getting involved in movies and projects that didn’t interest me. ... I was saying yes to everything. What I’m doing now isn’t as lucrative, but it’s easier for me to sleep at night.

Q. Your latest film stars Joel Murray, a respected character actor, but not a household name. Is there pressure from investors to call up your buddy, Robin Williams, when it comes to casting?

A. No. The guys who finance my movies believe in me and let me do what I want to do. They’re very, very low-budget films.

Q. You’re working with Ray Davies on a musical featuring songs from the Kinks. What’s that been like?

A. It’s got a bigger budget, which has made it harder to get going, but it’ll get made. They’re my favorite band. At first, talking to Ray was like the “Chris Farley Show” on “SNL.” I was stuttering and sweating the whole time. I don’t stutter anymore.