Interview: Gilbert Gottfried Talks Career and Comedy

Interview: Gilbert Gottfried Talks Career and Comedy

Interview by Danny Coleman 

“Um, they’re going to be OK for the first five minutes, then they’re probably gonna look at each other and say; whose idea was it to go see Gilbert Gottfried anyway?”  

Gilbert Gottfried began doing stand-up comedy at the age of 15 because he liked to make people laugh, plain and simple, straight to the point; he enjoys using his personality, thought process and style to bring smiles to the masses. 

“I was never the class clown so to speak,” he began in a semi-reflective tone as he explained his start in the comedic world. “Eh, yeah, I was 15 and did my first open mic and people thought I was pretty funny. Ya’ know what’s funny? To this day, people come up to me after shows and say, “Hey, I’m the funniest guy at my job. I think I can do what you do” and I just smile and wish them luck.”  

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Gottfried has come a long way from that first open mic; even being called, “More than a National Treasure,” by famed author Stephen King. Gilbert has appeared on countless television programs, lent his voice to many animated productions (Perhaps most notably the parrot Lago in Disney’s,“Aladdin”), was the voice of the AFLAC duck, has had movie roles, started a successful podcast called, “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast” and continues to do voiceover work as well as his stand-up comedy. 

“I always say I prefer whichever line of work is waving a check at me at the time,”he said with a hearty laugh. “I don’t prefer acting over comedy or voiceover or the other way around, I always wind up in the long run enjoying it when I know that other people have enjoyed it. If I can look back and people laugh during a scene or after a show they let me know they had a good time, then I like what I have done.” 

Some of Gottfried’s appearances have become the stuff of legend, A.K.A. his scene with Eddie Murphy as accountant Sydney Bernstein in, “Beverly Hills Cop II.”“That scene was total improv,” he said with a twinge of pride. “People look back at that scene, and they loved it then and they still talk about it now. My biggest surprise though had to be with John Ritter in, “Problem Child” and John’s reaction after we were done. John came up to me after and said, “Thanks for taking the offer, go on to the next one;” I think he was apologizing and wasn’t expecting much (laughs). That turned out to be a big hit and great for me to the point of being brought back for the other films. When I look back at my career I get depressed (laughs), guess I’m a glass half empty kind of guy.” 

Ah but his glass is never seemingly half empty, however perception is in the eye of the beholder and many eyes have focused on the huge animated hit, “Aladdin.” The role of a wise cracking parrot seemed to fit Gottfried’s persona and he owned it beautifully. When asked what it was like working alongside comedic mad man Robin Williams, his response was unexpected. “Ya’ know, the funny thing with “Aladdin” was that I’m often asked, “Gilbert; what was that like working with Robin Williams? We hear it was sound booth insanity” and honestly, I never once worked with Robin in the booth, never saw him. Oh well, I guess it sounds better in the media to make it that way.” 

Gottfried enjoys voiceover work because it tends to be more relaxed, “Some people do it from inside their own apartment. Must be nice to climb out of bed and pour a cup of coffee and work in their pajamas. Can you picture it? Morgan Freeman in his underwear (laughs). I’ve never been that lucky.” 

Voicing a podcast was not on Gilbert’s list of planned things to do but he did so at the urging of wife. “This was entirely my wife’s idea,” he explained as if he still could not believe that he has done one and that it’s highly successful. “I still don’t totally understand,” he chuckled. “She said, “It’s like a radio show done on the computer” and she thought if I took my knowledge of old movies, TV shows and the what not and talked about them that it’d be successful. I thought to myself; who’s gonna remember that? So far its gone over very well and people listening may have discovered things that they would not have known. So far I’ve had Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner and a woman named Janet Ann Gallow: do you know who she was? As a child actress she starred in monster movies; in particular with Lon Chaney Jr and Bella Lugosi as Cloestine in, “The Ghost of Frankenstein.” “She talked about how Lon and Bela would play hide and seek with her during down times in filming while in full make up, these are little known stories like that which come out. My co-host (Frank Santopadre) is a research guy. He studies everything about our guests from their childhood up until now; me? I walk in and I’m hoping for the best (laughs).” 

A fascinating stage presence, Gottfried confesses that like his podcast interviewing style, he often just takes it as it comes to him. “My material? Oh God I don’t know where I get it from. It is really a big mish-mosh of things. Funny thing, people often say, “Gilbert; no political stuff?” “I stay away from that for the most part but most of my material comes from whatever hits me while I’m on stage. When things come to me I go with it; I’ve never had a real good work ethic (laughs).” 

Gottfried also tends to shy away from watching comics or going to comedy clubs unless he’s performing. “Oh God, I used to have a lot of comics that I loved to watch when I was growing up. Now I just watch and nod my head and say oh that was clever, that was nice. Going to comedy clubs for me now is like going to work on my day off. I support comics and comedy but for me it’d be like going to a restaurant and saying something like; see? That’s not how I’d have done that, I’d have done that differently. We all have our way of doing things.” 

After his three nights in NJ, Gottfried is spending the next three evenings (June 22, 23, 24) in Denver, CO then will be return to New Jersey for a show on July 13 at the Kathedral Event Center in Hammonton for an 8 p.m. show. Tickets for this event are $45 and can be purchased online at www.kathedral.com. 

To discover more about Gilbert Gottfried, please go to www.gilbertgottfried.com

Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)