Where are they now?: ''Police Academy'' -- The creator of the franchise talks about the genesis of its many sequels while Bobcat Goldthwait talks about his career after the films

By Josh Wolk
August 26, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Steve Guttenberg is too busy to talk to me.

I know — it didn’t sound right to me, either. But according to his publicist, the actor who made time to play ”Lord of the Anal Rings” on Howard Stern’s show in 2003 to promote his directorial debut, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, couldn’t spare a few minutes. I was deeply hurt…although I couldn’t claim the purest of motives. After reading countless retrospective articles on cinematic greats like Star Wars and The Godfather over the years, I had decided it would be hilarious to revisit one of the least respected movie series of all time: Police Academy. And you couldn’t do that without dipping into the memory of the Goot, who became a true Guttenstar in the 1984 low-budget, low-IQ comedy that grossed an unexpected $146 million worldwide, spawning a sequel a year for the next five years, then a seventh in 1994, not to mention a TV series, a cartoon, and a theme-park stunt show, eventually becoming the ultimate pop-culture punchline in the process.

Though I needed Guttenberg (who at the time had not yet been cast in UPN’s next season of Veronica Mars, nor shot NBC’s upcoming Poseidon miniseries), he could wait. In the meantime, surely his castmates — Michael Winslow (a.k.a. the human noise machine), Marion Ramsey (the actress who made ”Don’t move, dirtbag!” her own ”To be or not to be”), the gentle giant Bubba Smith, and the bodacious Leslie Easterbrook — would have some deliciously depressing tales to tell. Awkward stories of dashed dreams, lowered expectations, and blighted résumés. With a little luck, this article might even turn out to be the biggest, meanest Police Academy joke of all.

As it happened, though, the joke would be on me.

First, some background, for those who have somehow managed to dodge the films — which pop up on TV like an unrelenting game of cable whack-a-mole. The first Police Academy was a $4.2 million, R-rated, antiauthority, Animal House-esque romp about a squad of misfit cops-in-training. The subsequent six films followed exactly the same hypnotically repetitive outline, with the goofball flatfoots gradually being promoted up the ranks. The gags were always the same: Winslow’s Jones pretending to be in a badly dubbed martial-arts movie, the gun-happy Tackleberry (played by the late David Graf) always aiming too much firepower at the most minor infractions. There were endless gross-out jokes, oodles of moronic pratfalls, and, of course, the inevitable climactic chase scene, which could be on foot, Jet Skis, airboats, or — in one memorably anticlimactic instance — slow-speed hot-air balloons.

Nothing — nothing — will get you in the mood to hear these movies mocked more than watching them. Which is why, after sitting through all seven, I went first to Bobcat Goldthwait, a comedian who’s practically made a career out of ridiculing the franchise.

Goldthwait’s first studio picture was Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, in which he played a gang leader named Zed. For fans of the series — pubescent boys who like their comedy fortified with the word poo — it was love at first growl. With this following, Goldthwait was cast in the next two films — PA3: Back in Training and PA4: Citizens on Patrol — this time playing Zed as a cop. At the time, his spastic stand-up persona was earning him some notoriety as a thinking man’s lunatic. But his weirdly witty stand-up act was at odds with PA‘s less refined humor, so he took every opportunity to trash his biggest paycheck, dubbing the movies ”Police Lobotomy.” Even today he reflexively maligns them. ”If you read the script for 3 and 4, they could have just published them as novels, they were that good,” deadpans the comic, who is now the director for Jimmy Kimmel Live. ”It’s all on the page, man. It says, ‘Then Jones makes fart and chain-saw noises.”’ If they were so bad, why did he make three of them? ”It’s like, once you’ve done one porno, you might as well do a whole bunch,” he says. ”No one’s gonna cut you any slack for turning down A– Lickers 3.”