A new documentary about comedian Gilbert Gottfried reveals someone more mild-mannered than his stage persona, married with children, verging on dull.
His voice doesnít grate, dropping half its nasal quality and all of its foul-mouthed bluster. Shy winces replace Gottfriedís stand-up squint. Nobody would pay a two-drink minimum to meet this guy.
"I always think of that scene in The Wizard of Oz where itís, like, please ignore that man behind the curtain," Gottfried said by phone from New York. "Now a movie is revealing the man behind the curtain, so itís scary."
Onstage, like he will be for five shows Thursday through Saturday at Side Splitters Comedy Club, Gottfried is a funny force of nature, a "comedianís comedian" capable of saying anything. Groans and laughs are all the same to him.
Gottfriedís comedy has led to trouble thatís covered in Neil Berkeleyís documentary Gilbert.
A too-soon joke at Hugh Hefnerís celebrity roast after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was bad enough (although followed by his classic version of the disgusting "Aristocrats" gag). Then a string of Twitter jokes about Japanís 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster got Gottfried fired from voicing Aflacís duck.
Gottfried chatted with the Times about revisiting those career minefields, his popular podcast and not talking about comedy.
Whatís upsetting you these days thatís making it into your act?
Itís a funny thing. People ask me that and I think, Oh, God, now I have to think about what Iíll be saying onstage. It just to me always sounds so unfunny. Thereís nothing worse than talking about comedy.
Okay, howís Gilbert Gottfriedís Amazing Colossal Podcast going?
I find itís kind of fun. It concentrates mainly on old Hollywood with guests like Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Bruce Dern. I had on both Batman and Robin from the old TV series plus two of the Catwomen.
How does the format suit your style?
You donít have to answer to people. I can say what I want even if itís dirty. Itís funny with the guests I have they can go one of two ways: Either theyíre thrilled that they can say anything they want because theyíve been watching it all these years. Then there are the other ones who can be in their 90s and still feel they have to protect their image, their career.
Protecting your career is a key element of the documentary. How tough was it revisiting the Aflac and 9/11 controversies?
Those parts make me cringe because I remember what I was going through at the time. Like with the whole Aflac incident I was getting these hate tweets from I thought it was the entire Earth. Then you realize the ones who tweet the most are the ones with more time on their hands and theyíve got problems.
Were you worried your career might not recover?
At that time on TV theyíre saying: "Our top story tonight: Gilbert Gottfriedís career is over." What I started to realize is: If your career is over, youíre not the top story of the night.
Itís kind of like saying those two guys who replaced the original Dukes of Hazzard when (John Schneider and Tom Wopat) were on strike. Our top story tonight is their careers are over. No. When your careerís over, you can run into a building and save a thousand babies and youíre not going to be the top story that night.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.