A quarter-century after he directed his first movie, Bobcat Goldthwait is still best known as the strange, shrill Zed in the “Police Academy” movies and for his strange, equally shrill standup persona.
Saturday, the Olympia Film Festival will shine a spotlight on Goldthwait the director, presenting him with an award for Outstanding Achievement in Directing at a screening of his 2009 “World’s Greatest Dad,” starring the late Robin Williams.
“Most people don’t know that I direct stuff,” Goldthwait said. “My movies make hundreds of dollars.”
In a phone interview last week, he was personable and even mellow, with no trace of what was once his trademark screech. He still does comedy, but it’s evolved since the early days, when frequent screaming was a big part of his act.
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“Hundreds of dollars” understates things considerably, of course, but Goldthwait’s dark and edgy films have the kind of subject matter that might put off people — autoerotic asphyxiation in “World’s Greatest Dad,” alcoholic clowns in 1991’s “Shakes the Clown” and bestiality in 2006’s “Sleeping Dogs Lie.”
“If you just read about the ideas for my movies, you would think they were just shock comedies, but I always try to have the lead characters play it very straight,” he said. “The characters do things that are antisocial or weird, and the challenge for me is to create characters that you still empathize with at the end of the day.”
He feels he was most successful with “World’s Greatest Dad,” which is one reason he chose it for the Olympia screening rather than, say, 2015’s “Call Me Lucky,” a documentary about comedian Barry Crimmins, a longtime friend. Critics loved “Lucky,” and Goldthwait and Judd Apatow are adapting into a feature film.
“I’m very proud of the movie, but it’s pretty intense,” he said. “I’ve seen it a bunch, and I need a little space from it.”
“World’s Greatest Dad,” filmed in Seattle, received mixed reviews, but critics praised Williams’ performance as a high school poetry teacher who capitalizes on a death to turn around his own life.
Harry Reetz, the Olympia Film Society’s film programmer, is a big fan of Goldthwait and “World’s Greatest Dad.”
“It’s an extremely entertaining movie featuring one of Robin Williams’ finest performances,” Reetz said. “Somehow the film manages to be dark and twisted, but also funny and warm. It’s a hard trick to pull off.
“And I just really liked the idea of showing a Robin Williams movie at the festival.”
The director, too, wanted to spend a few more hours watching Williams, who took his own life in 2014.
“I miss my friend Robin,” he said. “When I watch the movie, I think of our friendship, and I think of the time we had together making it.”
Goldthwait has received a few other awards from film festivals, but he’s excited enough about the recognition that he’s flying to Washington to accept the award.
“It’s very flattering,” he said. “It’s a big deal to me when anybody acknowledges me as a guy who makes movies, because that’s really how I would like to be remembered.”
This will be his first public appearance in Olympia, though he recalls doing standup years ago at a nearby casino. (It was long enough ago that he’s not sure which one.)
“I’m happy to be getting out of the casino racket,” he said. “I’d much rather be getting an award than competing with an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
What: Goldthwait will receive an award for Outstanding Achievement in Directing and answer questions after a screening of his 2009 film, “World’s Greatest Dad,” starring Robin Williams.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia.
Tickets: $15, $10 for Olympia Film Society members.
Information: 360-754-6670, olympiafilmfestival.org.
Watch: See a sample of Goldthwait’s standup routine (his outfit alone is worth a look) at bit.ly/2fzk8GG.
Film festival: The festival continues through Sunday. Regular screenings are $10, $7 for members, $4 for children 12 and younger. Children are admitted free to Kids Club films.
All Freakin’ Night: The festival’s annual horror-movie marathon begins at midnight Sunday. (Doors open at 11 p.m. Saturday). Tickets are $20, $15 for members.