Aristocrat of Comedy

Unsexy? Annoying? Gilbert Gottfried doesn't care how you remember him.

There are few people in the world who need only speak a single word to get instant, near-universal recognition. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is one such person, and his quack of "Aflac!" on the life insurer's TV commercials is in company with Homer's "D'oh" and the Fonz's "Aaaayyyy" as one of the most identifiable single-word catchphrases of all time. Though in truth, Gottfried can say just about anything and be picked out of a crowd. He spoke to us from New York in advance of his appearance this weekend in Bellevue. SW: When most people think of Gilbert Gottfried, they think "the guy with the annoying voice." Are you cool with that? If people are willing to hand me a check, I'm fine with whatever they think of me. One of your most memorable roles was "Jago" in Aladdin. You've also done a lot of other G-rated cartoon roles. Yet dirty and offensive jokes are your stand-up bread and butter. How do you keep getting work on wholesome kids' shows? I don't know. My career has always walked the tightrope between early-morning children's programming and hardcore porn. Do you still not use e-mail or a cell phone? No, I actually recently started using e-mail and a cell phone. I still feel like a chimpanzee when I use them, though. If they gave me a dollar off to use one of those old phones that were the size of a brick, I probably would do it. You were on the 1980–81 season of Saturday Night Live, which some people say is the worst ever. And though you didn't get much screen time, people still talk about the time you played a corpse in a coffin with no lines. Do you regret being on the show? Around the time, I think I did. I remember thinking that everyone was looking at me and thinking "Oh, he was from that one terrible season." After all this time, it all blends together. It's just a job. What do you think of the SNL cast these days? I haven't really watched it for a while. And that was the thing—with my season there were articles written about "How dare they have a new cast." Now I can't even keep track of them. They change the cast during commercial breaks. One of the many defining moments in your career was your telling of a 9/11 joke in New York City three weeks after the tragedy, then winning back the rebelling audience by telling the classic joke, "The Aristocrats." Do you only save that joke for special occasions? Yeah, I save it for weddings and bar mitzvahs. I don't do it that often. I did it on the DVD, of course, which, if you could mention, is called Dirty Jokes, and you can get it on gilbertgottfried.com. But I don't walk around telling it, no. You were once labeled by the Boston Phoenix as the unsexiest man in the world. What do you think about that? Well, to me it was like a great achievement. Like, I'm happy to win anything in my life. I really enjoyed it, because it was picked up all over the world. They had it in Russia and India and China. To have the entire world think I'm unsexy is kind of an honor. Going back to your childhood, were you always a funny guy? I mean, were you the class clown in school? I was the class shipping clerk. I didn't quite make it to class clown. Was your family supportive when you did get into comedy? No. Back then, it was before the whole comedy boom. Back then, if you said you wanted to be a comedian, it was like saying "I'm gonna be the next Charlie Chaplin" or something. It was just an insane thing to say. You've played the Seattle area before. What do you remember about it? I never remember where I played or when. But the name sounds familiar. Seattle . . . I remember there were buildings and some streets. You're a legend to a lot of comedians. Are there any comics touring right now whom you admire? That are still around? Hmmm, I don't know. I can't even watch comics and laugh anymore. Has anything made you laugh lately? Seeing my last tax return. What should Seattleites expect if they come to your show? They should expect to be sitting there, staring at each other, and then going "Whose idea was it to come here? This guy's not funny," and then asking if they can get their money back.

 
comments powered by Disqus