Always strange yet funny

Comedi­an Gil­bert Gottfried has branched out from stand-up com­ic to films and TV. He says he prefers ‘whichever one waves a check in my face.’

— 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.’”

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