Some things are just true. The sun comes up in the east, water flows downhill, and Gilbert Gottfried is funny. Obnoxious too. Grating. He can say some inappropriate things. And yes, he's always in trouble. But like the old lounge comics he takes his cues from, he's got zingers. And he'll get you, eventually.
Fly on the Wall: I don't think I've never asked anybody this question before. Certainly not so early in the morning. But I saw this on social media and wondered — What was it like when you were on Celebrity Apprentice and Donald Trump grabbed your pussy?
Gilbert Gottfried: I was both shocked and flattered.
I suspect so.
I thought it was a little forward of him, but I was very impressed by his success.
How strange is it to have done that show with the soon to be President of the United States.
It's definitely surreal. I start thinking what that might mean anybody else whose shows I've been on. I mean, Jay Leno could be President. David Letterman could be President. It's a surreal time. But I remember when the election going on and it was him and Hillary. Out of the entire United States it comes down to these two.
This is what I've observed. And I could be wrong. But you really seem to enjoy what you do a lot. Is that a good act you put on, or is comedy still a lot of fun for you?
It depends on the day. Sometimes it depends on that particular 15-minutes of the day. Sometimes I enjoy what I'm doing. Other times, like when I'm going to another state to do another show, I feel like I'm Willie Loman lugging his suitcase around.
I've toured a little and know that Willie Loman feeling.
And it's a funny thing, especially traveling, going to the comedy shows. Whenever TV shows show a politician or a rock star screaming out "I love you Chicago!" and they're not in Chicago, it's always played for a laugh. I'm always like, "Yeah, I know exactly what that feels like."
Is there any part of it you like more these days? The stand up? TV? Voice?
I like doing voice overs. I liked when they had more sitcoms on the air. More so than reality shows, though reality shows have taken over. I liked when they used to call me up and just go, "You're going to be Jack the Plumber in this episode." That was much more easy and fun. It's funny, with the reality shows, which I was avoiding for the longest time, then I realized, that is TV now. And the amount of people who watch it is pretty incredible.
I'm with you. I remember thinking, this is a fad. It will be gone soon, nobody's really invested in watching this. Jokes on me!
Oh, yeah. After a while, before I said I'd do it, I started to feel like some old time stage actor who looks down on movies. And a funny thing happened too, when they were offering me these different shows, and I'd done one of those celebrity paranormal shows, which was pretty ridiculous.
I don't think I saw that one.
Well, you didn't miss anything. We're all — me and a group of other celebrities including former porn star Traci Lords — were in some abandoned insane asylum and the ghost of an insane serial killer is still there. And they gave us these ghost packs. It had some kind of thermometer there. And if one part of the room was one degree higher or lower than another part, that was proof of paranormal activity. Cause, you know, abandoned insane asylums are known for their temperature control. If there's a breeze coming in, that's obviously a ghost. So I'd say no to these things. I'd think, "I want to be in a movie with Robert De Niro." And then I started to realize, the Kardashians have a bigger audience than Robert De Niro. And two, I wound up with a very small part in a Robert De Niro picture recently. So I guess the whole business has totally changed.
You have a real knack for saying things that get you into hot water.
I thought I'd keep that out of the press.
But most of the time you turn it around and it works for you. Gift or curse?
Oh, God. Employment-wise, it's a curse. But I always feel like, whenever anything happens to me, I always think twice and do it anyway. Bad part is losing work and the internet goes nutty on you. But the good part is, sometimes when something happens to me that's some big controversy, it's almost like slapping a "new-and-improved" label on an old product. When people start saying, "Gilbert Gottfried's career is over, what I realized is, when your career's really over, people don't mention your name. If the top story of the night is your career is over, it means it definitely isn't over, or they wouldn't talk about it.
Perfect point of reference — the time you tell the 9/11 joke, lose the room, then, unlikely as it might seem, you win them all back by telling The Aristocrats. Which is a completely different kind of perverse. But the okay kind, I guess. And that's the model. You always turn it around. Except for maybe with Aflac.
There they got rid of me, got loads of free publicity for getting rid of me, then hired a guy who sounds just like me for a lot less money, thus bringing closure to a terrible tragedy.
I asked readers what they wanted to know about Gilbert Gottfried, and they all wanted to know about your voice. But everybody asks about your voice. What I want to know, as a man approaching 50 who squints a lot, can you recommend I good, yet affordable wrinkle cream?
No. I just go with all the other actresses for Botox. And I'm going to get chin implants put in.
You've been playing this character for so long, with the squinting and the voice — does it bleed in and out of daily life, or is it something you turn on and off like a light.
I can turn it on and off. And the weird part about it, I've found after doing it for so long, it's like I have two personalities. One's not more relevant than the other.
That's got to be fun for everybody. Are there signs friends and family know to look for to know which Gilbert they're getting.
In any case the less funny one. With the voice or not.
You're inspired by a lot of older comics. But where do you look for new material?
That's kind of weird because I don't really look for material. Sometimes something will hit me and and I'll go up on stage and try it out and it gets expanded. But I've never actually written anything down?
Yeah, and I have a horrible work ethic as far as the idea of sitting down and typing out bits and all that. So I'll have it all in my head and I'll think I'll do this bit or that. Then I realize I've been doing a bit so long I'll ask, "Hey, any of you watch Bonanza?" Sometimes if I've been doing a bit way too long I feel like, wow, I'm on autopilot now. I could be working out mathematical problems while I'm doing this.
You said Bonanza. So I've got to bring this back to your podcast. Just a great repository for fans of 20th-Century show business.
With me it's a suppository.
It's a pain in the ass?
Yeah. It's one of those things. Years ago there were these shows like Fantasy Island and theLove Boat. They'd dig up these people like you thought were dead, and then you saw them and thought, 'Hey, they're just as good as they ever were."
Setting a course for adventure.
I was originally going to call it "The Before It's Too Late show" and a couple of times that's happened. I've called a guest, they agree to do it, and the day before they die. We've had several guests up their in their 90s. A few of them, and they remember everything.
Any favorite stories?
Unfortunately this happens. When the mic is off all of a sudden they come up with a great story. Dick Van Dyke told me, off mic, in school his nickname was Dick Nose. Whenever the teacher would ask a question and say, "Who knows the answer," all the other students would say, "Dick knows, Dick knows!"