At first glance, Nirvana and Bobcat Goldthwait appear to have very little in common. But, think again and the similarities come rushing in: Both, for example, were important in shaping the direction of 1990s entertainment, both communicated their art through lots of growly sounds and raw onstage energy, and both, it turns out, were involved with making a landmark MTV Unplugged performance a reality.
An oral history of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York by Alan Siegel over at The Ringer has unearthed plenty of interesting trivia about the concert. There’s good stuff about Krist Novoselic’s disappointment that he couldn’t slap stickers all over the acoustic bass he borrowed, giving Dave Grohl drum brushes as an early Christmas present as a polite hint that he not play so loudly, and memories of the show from the people in attendance.
Surprisingly, though, Goldthwait is interviewed about his friendship with Kurt Cobain and influence on the performance. Apparently the two met before Nirvana broke into the mainstream because, as Goldthwait puts it, “Kurt was a fan of my standup. It’s like finding out that Jimi Hendrix really liked Buddy Hackett.” Years later, Goldthwait was “was opening for them while they played arenas.”
While preparing for MTV Unplugged, the comedian and director hung out with Nirvana during rehearsals (which, in one instance, caused him to run late for a Conan O’Brien appearance) and Cobain tried to watch Goldthwait tape a guest spot on The Jon Stewart Show but was stopped from going by MTV. Goldthwait also offered Cobain moral support before the show itself. Geffen Records’ Peter Baron remembered “walking into the sort of green room or whatever it was, and Kurt was sitting there with Bobcat Goldthwait, like literally together.” Goldthwait, for his part, says, “I definitely did feel often that it would just be him and I, kind of a little bit of padding between him and the world.”
Elsewhere, Goldthwait talks about watching the show, remembering “the hair standing up on my arm” during Nirvana’s cover of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and “getting like a beard burn [from when Cobain would] rub his face onto mine” during their hugs.
There is, of course, much more, non-Goldthwait information contained in the full article, which is well worth the read. For everyone else, please just enjoy the lingering mental image of the two pals’ “beard burns.”
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