The oddball of the oddballs of comedians, Gilbert Gottfried passed today from his struggle with Muscular Dystrophy. Always crude, shocking on the very edge of bad taste and sidebustingly funny.
There are and will be many better tributes from people who knew him and from the industry. So here’s a semi-personal account with a few great ways to remember Gottfried.
Warning: Everything beyond this point is rated R
I first heard of him as a writer for National Lampoon and an up and coming stand up comedian. Here’s his bit on the Nazi Kurt Waldheim getting honored by the Vatican. If you know what I’m talking about, you’re old.
Then for a brief magic moment, Andrew Dice Clay was a thing. Gottfried was perfect for a bit part as a shock jock. The early eighties was when Gottfried got famous, the late eighties/early nineties were Gottfried’s glory days.
Crappy movie, great cameo. Yes, Gottfried was hot.
Not to say that he didn’t remain great. He did but wasn’t quite the Hollywood hot property he was. For many his peak was when he voiced the evil parrot Iago in Aladdin. Won’t give you a link, you know it.
A decade or so later, he gained notoriety for making a 9/11 joke shortly after 9/11. The audience howled “too soon!” It was characteristic of Gottfried and this was the kind of edginess that made him great but also got him in trouble.
But the silver lining is that as he was facing the boos, he did the one thing comedians do for each other. Tell a hackneyed, obscene joke – The Aristocrats.
It not only recovered the moment, it inspired a documentary about The Aristocrats produced by Penn Gillette. Warning, this is really, really f***ed up.
Then, once again, Gilbert faded from the cultural consciousness, but he was still there. Remember the Aflac Duck? Remember the aholes that fired him?
The audiobook of “Fifty Shades of Grey” would have been epic if he narrated it.
Finally, I’ll end with how wonderful this man, Gilbert Gottfried appears to be to me – an outsider. We rented this biographical documentary on Amazon Prime video and really got to see what a good man he was outside his crass persona. If you’re a Prime subscriber, it’s free.