Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait on the Bill of Rights, Ted Nugent, Westboro Baptist Church, and His Film God Bless America

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Why did you agree to participate in the Phoenix Comedy Festial/Bill of Rights Comedy Fest?
I agreed because this will be part of my community service work (laughs). No, I looked it up after they asked me to do it. It seemed kind of interesting and I said, "Yeah, I'm on board, it's a great idea." I'd love to see it in other cities and towns too..

Do you think comedians are ideal spokespersons for the First Amendment? There have been many comics that have stretched the boundaries of free speech over the years through controversy, like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.
Well, I think that comics are people that are pushing for it the most, but there are certainly are people in music and other art forms doing it too. So yeah, I think freedom of speech being protected by comedians makes sense.

Speaking of controversy, we've heard that your latest film God Bless America caused a little bit of an uproar amongst conservatives.
People [have gotten] upset because there's characters that are clearly based on Tea Party members who get shot and killed in the movie. But they don't get shot and killed for their ideology, they get shot and killed because there's a lot of Tea Party members who are just assholes. What really lit the fuse for me to write this screenplay was I saw a Tea Party sign where it says, "We came unarmed this time." Well, I thought, that's really crazy, so I'll see your crazy and I raise you a crazy.

The main character goes on a killing spree, offing annoying reality TV stars and people similar to the folks of the Westboro Baptist Church. When you wrote the screenplay, were you compiling a list of annoying people you wanted to kill?
Nah, I really don't want to kill anybody, and the real solution to these things isn't getting rid of those people. Really, I wanted to write a movie about how we all have this appetite for distractions. I don't really care about the Kardashians or people like that, but why do we as a society have this appetite for them? Why are we making celebrities out of these people?

Because they're human train wrecks, especial the Westboro members who protest at funerals.
Again, that doesn't piss me off. I really want to make a movie that questioned our appetite for this stuff. The Westboro Baptist Chuch people are a the equivalent of shock religion. These people aren't really interested in Christ's values, they're interested in making themselves famous. Some people have said that the movie is anti-Christian because you see someone who's clearly the Westboro Baptist people holding a sign that says God hates Jews and they get killed and now I'm anti-Christian. Well, that's the real sign they hold up . . . I would say that's more anti-Christian than me doing a comedy where they get killed.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.