Bobcat Goldthwait soldiers on in laid-back evening of comedy at Lincoln Lodge

A more measured and demure Goldthwait stepped to the mic at the Lincoln Lodge on Wednesday night, celebrating the release of his comedy album,“Soldier for Christ.”

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Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait performs a stand-up show at the Lincoln Lodge on Wednesday night.

Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait performs a stand-up show at the Lincoln Lodge on Wednesday night.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

On a chilly Wednesday night in late April, less than 100 comedy fans politely move from the bar at the Lincoln Lodge in Bucktown into the theater. No one had been camping out in line or jockeying for position for better seats; just a casual migration from one room to another.

It’s a different vibe for the evening’s emcee and celebrant — stand-up comic, actor and director Bobcat Goldthwait (“Police Academy” 2 through 4, “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”).

In the 1980s and ’90s, Goldthwait would shout, twitch and sweat from the stage, adopting a gravelly, slurred tone and carrying out extreme, questionable stunts. He opened for Nirvana on tour (Kurt Cobain was a fan), and at a New Year’s Eve show in Oakland in 1993, he rappelled naked from the raised catwalk as the clock struck midnight.

He also had a penchant for destroying the sets of talk shows. It started by tossing furniture on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” He vandalized the studio at “The Arsenio Hall Show.” He incinerated a chair on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

A more measured and demure Goldthwait stepped to the mic at the Lincoln Lodge on Wednesday night, celebrating the release of his comedy album “Soldier for Christ.” Sporting dark-rimmed glasses, a Havana-style fedora, a cozy flannel shirt and a T-shirt emblazoned with a penguin, Goldthwait ditched the affectation in favor of sincerity and smiles.

“When I’m here, I don’t have to do the greatest hits,” comedian Bobcat Goldthwait told the audience on Wednesday night at Lincoln Lodge.

“When I’m here, I don’t have to do the greatest hits,” comedian Bobcat Goldthwait told the audience on Wednesday night at Lincoln Lodge.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Hedging expectations, he opened with a bit of defensiveness: “You don’t look the same, either!” he said to the audience.

The evening’s lineup was stacked. Eugene Mirman (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Flight of the Conchords”) and his company, Pretty Good Friends, put out “Soldier for Christ,” and the comic was there to pay homage. Goldthwait also welcomed Victoria Vincent (Just for Laughs) and Adam Burke (“Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”), whom he met in Chicago, and Jaye McBride (“Inside Amy Schumer”) whom he met touring. Surprises also included comedic actor Tim Kazurinsky (“Police Academy” movies 2-4, “Saturday Night Live”), musician Jason Narducy (Superchunk) and voice actor extraordinaire Tom Kenny (“SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Rick and Morty”).

Goldthwait’s newfound serenity is a product of time and proximity. A few years ago, he moved from Los Angeles to the far Western suburb Winfield, so his girlfriend could be closer to family. He discovered the Lincoln Lodge and made it his new comedy home. “Soldier for Christ” was developed and recorded there, so there was no better place to host this celebration among friends and share new material.

“When I’m here, I don’t have to do the greatest hits,” he said.

Goldthwait’s performance — jokes that didn’t make the album — skewed toward the ravages of aging. His doctor chastised him for smoking cigars, and when he points out that (cigar aficionados) Groucho Marx and George Burns lived very long lives, his doctor returned with, “Well, they were famous comedians.”

The MRI technician, meanwhile, knew Goldthwait and did an impression as the procedure started. When receiving shoulder replacement surgery, Goldthwait was asked if he preferred a “cadaver” shoulder or an artificial one; artificial, of course, because he didn’t want to have to ask, “Where was my shoulder on Jan. 6th?”

The theme bled into the supporting acts, as well. Vincent laughed at her younger days spent writing fan fiction about the band Good Charlotte; Burke lambasted a kidney stone as “like a healing crystal, but the opposite.” Kazurinsky embraced his dad-humor vibes by reading a bad Russian translation off a box of instant rice and telling two jokes one might find in a dirty joke book.

Other acts leaned on the absurd. McBride, a trans woman, lauded her breasts as “the best 10,000 pesos I’ve ever spent.” Narducy played a song he wrote for the folks at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, site of an ill-fated election rally, when he toured their facility. (“Why is Rudy dripping?” he croons.) Mirman killed with tracks from his nine-volume comedy album, such as a series of goofy ringtones and songs he composed to aurally replicate the experience of taking certain drugs.

The pinnacle of the show occurred when Kenny joined Goldthwait onstage for the final act. The pair have been friends since elementary school and started out in comedy together (Kenny is the one who originated the “Bobcat” nickname). “Soldier for Christ” contains two songs the duo wrote and recorded on cassettes, and the show ended with performances of both tracks: “I’m in Love With a Duck” and “Vigilante Nun,” with Narducy on guitar and other guests on backup instruments and vocals.

These unironic renditions fit the Chicago stand-up scene, where vulnerability is rewarded and comedy is for the moment, first and foremost. Wednesday night’s show demonstrated why Goldthwait is officially a Chicago comic, not just in proximity but in style, and it means a lot to him.

Goldthwait even admitted to being more nervous singing about a duck than descending naked at a Nirvana show.

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