— Stand-up comic Gilbert Gottfried plays the Helium Comedy Club in Center City for three dates in July.
That voice could only belong to the one and only Gilbert Gottfried.
And his humor, sometimes dark, always strange but wonderfully funny, could only belong to him as well.
And now audiences at the Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St., will get to enjoy it all as Gottfried takes the microphone July 19, 20 and 21.
Gottfried first grabbed the mic when he was just 15, doing stand-up at open-mic nights in New York City. He said, “I started at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, and in those days mostly singers took the stage. But here was I, doing most imitations. Truthfully, I don’t remember if I did great or if I bombed, but I was just too stupid to know either way. And I really didn’t care. I enjoyed myself.”
Some of those early imitations included take-offs on old comedians like Jackie Vernon, done mainly for Gottfried’s own amusement. “And then there was the time I did Jack Nicholson and James Mason in The Honeymooners. It seems my mind just works in strange ways, and I hope it continues.”
Indeed, finesse is a foreign word to Gottfried, 57, who was raised in Brooklyn and said he grew up “wanting to be a nonentity, a lumberjack and a brain surgeon, although not necessarily that order.”
But comedy eventually took hold even though Gottfried said he never considered himself to be the class clown. “I just started joking around and imitating people I saw or heard and it all just led me into this career because,” he admitted. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything else. I had other jobs along the way, some really bad jobs, but I kept coming back to show business.”
Producers of the NBC late night comedy show Saturday Night Live become aware of Gottfried and hired him as a cast member in 1980. A few years later his true notoriety began after MTV hired him for a series of improvised and hilarious promos for the newly formed channel. That led to several television appearances on The Cosby Show and Late Night With David Letterman.
Gottfried’s work in television soon led to roles in film. Most notable was his improvised scene as business manger Sidney Bernstein in the hit sequel Beverly Hills Cop II. As his reputation grew, he began getting other quirky roles in such films as Problem Child, Problem Child II, Look Who’s Talking II, and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.
He recently released Gilbert Gottfried Dirty Jokes on both DVD and CD, and was seen on the hit comedy documentary The Aristocrats. Entertainment Weekly wrote that “out of the 101 comedians who appear on screen, no one is funnier — or mort disgusting — than Gilbert Gottfried.”
Today, Gottfried continues to don many hats, including stand-up, films and TV.
“My preference, I always say, is whichever one waves a check in my face,” he said.
AFLAC, the insurance company, used to wave those precious checks in his face until Gottfried made the mistake of being funny. He said, “It was around the time of the tsunami in Japan and I started cracking jokes about that the way I do everything else. After all, I am a comic who makes jokes.”
And so, Gottfried concluded, “they fired me and hired another guy for much less money to play the duck. But my favorite tweet during that time was one that said ‘AFLAC fires Gilbert Gottfried after discovering he’s a comedian.’”
For times and ticket information, call 215-496-9001.