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A funny Bobcat changes his spots; Goldthwait has jettisoned his off-the-wall '80s persona in favor of filmmaking, directing

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 turns 50 next month, 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.

Goldthwait talked earlier this month about his change in behavior, an upcoming collaboration with the Kinks' Ray Davies, and why he has an amazing collection of hats.

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

Answer: 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'm partially to blame because 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 exactly 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. It's not like they lend themselves to be filmed in 3-D.

>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.

>Q. Directing a talk show seems to be a very different challenge from directing a feature film. Was there anything you learned from your time at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" that helped you when it came to movies?

A. I super-enjoyed my time there. When I was a boy, I was a janitor at my high school and worked in a grocery store, but as an adult, I never had a steady day job. It was great seeing the same people every day. The one thing I learned is the ability to make decisions really quickly.

>Q. You have an amazing collection of hats. Is there a story behind that?

A. Funny, I just stored 100 of them in my garage. One of the reasons, of course, was that I was going bald. But I also wore a different hat to "Kimmel" every night. If you're wearing a silly hat, it's hard to lose your temper. You don't take yourself too seriously.

>Q: Do you think you'll ever be invited back on "The Tonight Show"?

A: You know, people think I was banned. I was banned as much as Ricky Gervais was from the Golden Globes. I was actually on a week after [the fire] happened. I think I'd be back on if they thought I was famous enough. I'm not anymore.