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Crude and grating, stand-up veteran and now podcast pro Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian's comedian.
Crude and grating, stand-up veteran and now podcast pro Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian's comedian.
Photo by Arlene Gottfried

Shrill? Yes. Filthy? Yep. And Still, Gilbert Gottfried Makes You Laugh

Comedians and rock stars share a common bond when it comes to touring. Their lives are essentially blurs that move from one check-in counter to the next. For legendary actor and stand-up comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the same is true even at age 64 as he visits one city after another.

“I get off the plane, go to the hotel, then the next day, do all the morning shows – Captain Jim, Crazy Bob and His Barking Zoo – then I watch a lot of horrible TV at the hotel, perform, and then go back to the hotel. So, for all I know, I could have visited Rome sometimes.”

Unlike their rock-'n'-roll counterparts, however, comedians generally don’t trash hotel rooms and, at least as Gottfried tells it, they don’t hit if off so well with the ladies. In fact, he tells us he’s not alone in this sad department. For decades now, Gottfried and his good friend, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David, have been keeping score about, well, not scoring.

“It seemed like a competition on who could fail more miserably. If we had gone out together trying to get laid, that would have been a TV series. Like it is, we keep each other up to date. Like I’d be talking about some horribly embarrassing, awful attempt to get laid, and he’d go [insert Gottfried’s spot-on Larry David impression, complete with pauses and Brooklyn accent], ‘I met this goil, and uh, you know, and I was talking to her and everything was fine and uhhh, it all sort of turned back.’”

As for who’s winning at losing?

“Oh boy, I don’t know. I would always think I won that.”

All that said, Gottfried, best known for delivering wildly crude punchlines in a grating, nasally voice, is doing quite well otherwise. The voice actor for Iago in Disney's Aladdin franchise and the duck in Aflac commercials has spent the last few years popping in random projects, such as reading the novel Fifty Shades of Grey for College Humor (RIP, 2020) or making a last-minute guest appearance on the Netflix comedy special Bumping Mics, starring Dave Attell and Jeff Ross (to introduce the pair and then tell a hilariously filthy incest joke).

What may surprise people, after 30-plus years of hearing his screeching, is that Gottfried's natural speaking voice is quite normal.

“It’s a funny thing. One time I called the [Howard] Stern show. The guy who answered the phone kept asking me questions like, What? Who are you? And then he said to [producer] Gary [Dell’Abate], 'Some guy says he’s Gilbert Gottfried,' and Gary said, 'Does he sound anything like Gilbert Gottfried?' And he said, no. Gary said, that’s him.”

Gottfried is fully aware that hearing the real deal colors people’s opinion of him.

“I’m the same way other people are, and I should know better. If I meet a celebrity and they don’t act the way they act in the movies – like, if I met Clint Eastwood, and he didn’t pull a gun on me, I’ll be like, why is he being that way?”

Speaking of which, Gottfried currently spends a large amount of his time meeting and speaking to celebrities from Hollywood’s golden past on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast. It is his attempt to preserve as many stories as he can from a bygone or soon-to-be bygone era. Hundreds of episodes in, Gottfried says he still finds it challenging.

“It’s very weird because for most of my career, I would be one that people interview. I kind of like being there in the other position, sitting there thinking, oh, this interviewer is an idiot. And now I realize that I’m the idiot. It’s just like sometimes I’ll be on stage and I think to myself, what the hell am I doing up here?”

Last May, Gottfried dug deep into world history for a bit on a show that pissed off more than a few people. The very Jewish Gottfried played the role of Adolf Hitler in the Roast of Anne Frank, one of the episodes on the Comedy Central / Netflix six-part Historical Roasts comedy series. It was very clever satire that took digs at everyone from Nazis to Netflix itself. Unfortunately, too many people didn’t quite get it. Thankfully, enough did.

“What’s interesting about it, the head writer on it, while and after I was doing the show, he kept thanking me. He said his grandmother was a camp survivor and this was important to him. I always enjoy the fact that years ago the Three Stooges did two shorts where Moe was Hitler. I always think that if you could make someone like that a laughingstock, it’s a really good thing."

Some people took offense. But Gottfried adds, “One woman tweeted, ‘Hitler killing people is not funny; a Jew dressed as Hitler and three other Jews giving him shit is funny.’”

As much of a boost as the internet has provided Gottfried (for example, he will directly interact with fans and give them shoutouts on the Cameo website), he sometimes has, let’s say, mixed feelings.

“I’ve always said that the internet makes me feel sentimental for old-time lynch mobs. It’s kind of like, I have to feel respectful. At least they actually had to put their shoes on, leave the house, and get their hands dirty. And now you can sit at home in your underwear and form a lynch mob.”

Gilbert Gottfried. 7 p.m. January 23-26, Seminole Hard Rock Comedy Club, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood 33314; seminolehardrockhollywood.com; Tickets cost $25 via ticketmaster.com.

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