Chaos Ruled When A Comedian Opened for Nirvana
Comic Bobcat Goldthwait is no stranger to controversy. After all, this is the guy who set Jay Leno’s couch on fire.
Bobcat makes a good point on that Leno appearance -- the only reason he was booked on the Tonight Show in the first place was because of his reputation for outrageous antics. But sometimes, those antics came flying back at him.
For some reason -- we guess because it was the 90s? -- Bobcat had been hired as the opening act for Nirvana. Because when you want to thrash around the mosh pit, there’s no better appetizer than a few one-liners from the guy from Police Academy 3: Back in Training.
Any given night on that tour must have been tough comedy sledding, but one particular show stood out, according to Goldthwait’s brutal account in I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics.
It was in Chicago, a show notable to Goldthwait for all the tiny Bibles being distributed to concert-goers by a local Christian group. That was a head-shaker -- a grunge concert probably wasn’t the best venue for converting new followers to the flock.
“It's hard enough to hear God talking when you're alone, sober, and in the woods,” says Goldthwait. “But when you're on X and Boone's Farm wine and jammed in with ten thousand screaming fans, all being blasted by lasers and guitars at jet-plane-level decibels, it's impossible to even spell the word God.”
It had been a tough tour for Goldthwait, who’d already been pelted with audience miscellanea like smelly shoes and M-80s. “So nailing me with a tiny souvenir Bible,” he says, “was a no-brainer.”
What was different was everyone had a Bible and it took just one fan to plant the seed for chaos. Bibles came flying at the comic by the hundreds, and no matter where Goldthwait tried to hide, they “easily nailed me in a shotgun blast pattern.”
But Nirvana fans weren’t done yet. Not content to let Goldthwait get away with a few dozen Bible bruises, they decided to throw an actual kid.
“No amount of comedy-club heckler training could ever have prepared me for the sight of a pie-eyed teenager flying toward me,” remembers Bobcat. “He struck me square in the back and the crowd roared.”
But remember -- this was the guy who torched talk-show sets. Rather than simply accept the abuse, Bobcat fired back with what “was probably my primitive self-defense mechanism reaching for any weapon available.” Specifically, it was the recent news that Chicago deity Michael Jordan was leaving basketball because his father had been shot in the head.
Cover your ears because here it comes, a blast designed to take out Bobcat’s new worst enemies: “Hey, Chicago, I feel bad for your Michael Jordan, but for forty million dollars a year, I'd shoot my own dad in the head!”
Bobcat described the feeling as a massive kick between the audience’s collective legs, “a nuclear mutation of the classic “Fire!” shout in a crowded theater.”
What came next wasn’t so much “booing” as it was “calls for the violent dismemberment of Bobcat Goldthwait,” including literal shouts of “Kill him!” No amount of clever crowd work was going to get this audience back on Bobcat’s side. The set was over, now the goal was survival.
Security guards threw a towel over the comic’s head, shoved him into a van, and sped him off to the relative safety of O’Hare Airport and whatever bloodthirsty fans awaited in the next town.
“I remember passing Kurt Cobain, who was watching from the side of the stage,” says Bobcat. “He was laughing his ass off.”
“Of course, he hired me for the rest of the tour. It always paid to make the band laugh.”
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