Gilbert Jeremy Gottfried (February 28, 1955 — April 12, 2022) was everybody's favorite squinty-eyed, grating-voiced, pint-sized, obnoxious, hilarious American stand-up comic and voice actor from Brooklyn, New York. Known for roles consisting of (but not limited to) Iago in the Aladdin franchise (and by extension, the Kingdom Hearts series and House of Mouse), Igor Peabody in the Problem Child movies, Mr. Mxyzptlk in Superman: The Animated Series (a role he would later reprise in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, Lego DC Super-Villains, and Justice League Action), Jerry the Bellybutton Elf from The Ren & Stimpy Show, Art De Salvo from Duckman, a troll from Dilbert, deranged dentist Dr. Bender and his son, Wendell, from a few episodes of The Fairly OddParents, Patrick Swayze and Jerry Seinfeld from Clerks: The Animated Series, Santa Claus from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Digit from Cyberchase, monster toy Tickle Me Psycho on Robotomy, God in the Season 1 finale of Smiling Friends* , the Aflac duck, and Seymour Smoke from Allstate's fire safety PSAs, as well as years of comedy routines.
Gottfried began his stand-up career in 1970 at the young age of 15 and by the end of the decade was performing at comedy clubs across New York City, eventually mastering the art form by performing edgy material and making a name for himself in the area as a "comedian's comedian". His professional career took off as a cast member on the NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live... during its widely-panned sixth season (1980-1981; the first season after Lorne Michaels and the remnants of the original "Not Ready For Primetime" cast left the show due to creative exhaustion). During those years, Gottfried had a full head of curly black hair, rarely if ever squinted, and actually had an indoor voice (though it did escalate into a No Indoor Voice from time-to-time. Still, if you ever watch a Jean Doumanian-era SNL sketch, you'll be shocked to find that, once upon a time, Gilbert was more-or-less soft-spoken). Gottfried only had one recurring character (Leo Waxman, wife of Denny Dillon's Pinky Waxman, a Jewish couple who host a talk show called What's It All About)note and two celebrity impressions: controversial film director Roman Polański, and David A. Stockman (director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan).
He also, along with Rhonda Shear◊, hosted the USA Network's enduring late night B-Movie showcase, USA Up All Night, from 1989 to 1998.
Gottfried caught some heat while speaking at a roast soon after 9/11 and making an Empire State Building joke that popularized finding insensitive jokes about current events "too soon". He then saved himself by doing a take on The Aristocrats that opens up the documentary of the same name. He was then fired by Aflac for making jokes about the 2011 Japanese earthquake on his Twitter, showing that he had no fear of offensive jokes, nor enough sense to keep from making light of Japan's national crisis while also representing Japan's top insurer. He later responded to this by apologizing after virtually every joke. He also showed sincerety for the loss of a couple of comedians, as shown in this article mourning the death of Robin Williams.
He co-hosted a Podcast, Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast with his friend Frank Santopadre, where they would interview veteran movie, television, music, and stand-up comedy stars. He even played a character in one episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd.
Has done a Dramatic Reading of Fifty Shades of Grey. He also did dramatic readings of UK statute law for the UK broadcast of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver every time the show uses a clip of House of Commons debate (footage of which cannot be broadcast for comedic purposes in the United Kingdom, so Gottfried's reading is an intentionally bad substitute for the British market). Also, according to the same show, Jared Kushner sounds suspiciously like Gottfried. ("'Wait, you just recorded Gilbert Gottfried over him!' Well, you can never know!")
Gilbert passed away on April 12, 2022, aged 67, after what was described as a long illness. His family would later confirm he had died due to complications from recurrent ventricular tachycardia and muscular dystrophy (specifically type II myotonic dystrophy).
Tropes associated with Gilbert Gottfried:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: His Georgie Jessel joke.
- Alliterative Name: Gilbert Gottfried.
- All Jews Are Cheapskates:
- Gilbert was known for being frugal to the point where even his Jewish friends frequently joked about it. Illustrator Drew Friedman recalled that Gilbert frequently visited his apartment unannounced in the late 1980s to watch films on his VCR, because he didn't want to buy one himself.
- As for Gilbert himself, he readily and frequently admitted to and joked about living up to the stereotype. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, he noted that he often just walked to appointments and business meetings as long as they took place within NYC itself rather than taking public transportation, as he didn't want to pay for tickets or fares. He also joked that he frequently went shopping in local 99¢ stores, because he felt $1 stores were "too fancy" for him. When it came to the story of how he met his wife, Dara, she would say that they met at a Grammy Awards party in 1997, to which Gilbert added that the main reason he was there in the first place was for the free food.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In his famous retelling of "The Aristocrats", he goes on a rant about how gross sweat is; this happens after he's described every other disgusting bodily fluid involved in the act, sometimes nonchalantly.
- Black Comedy: His comedy trademark. It got him into trouble repeatedly.
- The Cameo: Made a surprise appearance in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens as a storm chaser.
- In one of his last (if not the last) roles before his death, he played God in the season finale of Smiling Friends.
- Don't Explain the Joke: He often defied this rule for the sake of comedy. His rendering of The Aristocrats is a prime example. He'd also sometimes play a character who would criticize his regular absurdist comedy style, just by putting on a pair of glasses and donning a goofy voice.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: How he looked and sounded when he was a cast member on Saturday Night Live is entirely different than how he looked and sounded later in his career. As mentioned above, Gottfried once had a full head of hair, had his eyes open and had a fairly soft-spoken voice.
- Eyes Always Shut: Gilbert initially did this to get over stage fright. However, he began to rely on it to the point that he admitted feeling uncomfortable keeping them fully open when performing.
- Guttural Growler: Gottfried had a notably coarse, raspy voice, and it lends itself very well to characters with a Hair-Trigger Temper, such as Iago.
- Horror Host: He hosted the USA Up All Night midnight movies from 1989 to 1998.
- Kayfabe: Gilbert strictly kept himself under this in his public appearances. His notorious lack of an indoor-voice was noted by his friends very much be an "in-character" thing he did at at all times whenever appeared on camera. Whenever he was "himself", he was described as very soft-spoken, sensitive, and subdued.
- Long List: Demonstrated in his "Land of the Three-Named People" bit.
- The Napoleon: 5'5'' (165 cm) and loud and shrieky to match.
- No Indoor Voice: His classic comedic persona involved speaking in a loud and grating voice. His natural speaking voice was actually calm and subdued, as shown here.
- Occurred every now and then on badly-received jokes (for instance, on The Roast of Roseanne Barr he compared her to a "moo-nami", and then added about "dumb people who make jokes out of 'moo-namis' that cost them jobs").
- Gilbert often and openly joked about his own "unattractive" looks, considering himself a Lazy Bum (or as he put it, he "didn't go into show business because [he] wanted to work for a living") and his adherence to the All Jews Are Cheapskates stereotype. As he put it on his appearance on The Apprentice, when he was asked to use his kids in his marketing spiel:Gilbert: Now, I have two children... And I look at them every day as a miracle. And the miracle is... A woman had sex with me! TWICE! SO, IN YOUR FACE!
- "Sesame Street" Cred:
- He played the role of Jack Frost in an episode of the PBS Kids series The Noddy Shop.
- Perhaps Gilbert's most notable role in a kids' show was Digit from the educational cartoon Cyberchase, who oddly enough is a pretty naïve and kind-hearted guy.
- He also was the voice of a smoke alarm in the 90's Allstate video "Be Cool About Fire Safety", which also aired as a Public Service Announcement on children's TV blocks such as One Saturday Morning and Kids' WB!.
- He showed up as music critic Barney Bittman in an episode of Hannah Montana.
- He also voiced a possum on Bear in the Big Blue House.
- Tareme Eyes: When his eyes were open.
- Vocal Dissonance: He was known for the high-pitched, whiny, fingernails-on-chalkboard voice he used when he was performing and giving interviews. It became so associated with him that hearing him talk in a more "normal" manner was quite shocking. This was especially true for his routine about Jerry Seinfeld doing Hamlet, because he used a much different voice than usual.Gilbert: [doing a pretty good Jerry Seinfeld impression] To be, or not to be? I don't know whether I should be, or not! Something is rotten in Denmark!
- Yiddish as a Second Language: Justified since he was Jewish.
- You Fool!: Said this repeatedly in an infamous episode of The Hollywood Squares.