Over the course of more than four decades as a successful comedian, actor and voiceover artist, Gilbert Gottfried has likely gotten a reaction out of you — whether it was good or bad.
It may have been what he said. It may have been how he said it. It may have been how he looked saying it. But the 63-year-old performer said that as a long-time stand-up comedian who prides himself on no-holds-barred material, he said the bad reactions are almost a precondition to his craft.
“It’s like when you go to a comedy show, there should be something that shocks and offends you sometimes,” he said. “I mean, you don’t want to go on a rollercoaster that rides real slowly that doesn’t make any sudden drops.”
If you just imagined that last quote spoken in Gottfried’s grating, obnoxious yelling, that’s now how you would hear him on the phone. Granted, you still know the voice by heart. You know you’re speaking to Gilbert Gottfried . . . the guy who first came to the small screen as an early season cast member of “Saturday Night Live” in the mid-1970s. The guy who later exploded from cable TV during MTV’s cultural zeitgeist in the 1980s, doing “whatever came to my head” in recurring bits as the “general manager” of the music video network. The guy whose voiceover work includes two iconic bird characters, one being the parrot Iago in the 1992 Disney animated feature “Aladdin” and the duck from the Aflac insurance commercials throughout the first decade of the 2000s (well, at least until he was fired for an offensive tweet regarding the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011).
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Practically every year since the mid-1980s, Gottfried has been a presence somewhere on the big or small screen. And every few years, Gottfried says something so outlandish, either in public or on social media, that gets people riled up to the point where his career is practically over . . . until you see or hear him again.
“There have been a couple times in my career where I said something that hit the press and hit the internet. They’ll say ‘The top story: Gilbert Gottfried’s career is over,’ and I’m like, if my career was truly over, it wouldn’t be the top story,” he said. “It’s kind of like when I get in trouble for something, it’s kind of like they take a product that’s been on the shelves and slap a new label on it.”
Now, Gottfried has a few new labels on him thanks to newer projects both from him and about him. Along with comedy writer Frank Santopadre, Gottfried started “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast” in 2014. While he has his fair share of comedians on the show, he also makes a point to feature actors, producers, writers, composers and other lesser-known talent from his own previous projects and a bygone era of American cinema.
In 2017, the Neil Berkley-directed documentary “Gilbert” showcased the comic’s offensive stage presence while also revealing a warmer side of the often polarizing performer through his interactions with his family. It was released to overwhelmingly positive critical reviews and most people who have seen it have liked...except the guy the movie is about.
“A documentary is something I really didn’t want on me and it makes me totally uncomfortable to watch,” he said. “Now, I know what the rest of the world feels like watching me.”
Gottfried makes it a point to hit the road almost every weekend doing comedy, like he will be doing this weekend when he performs at Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington Aug. 31 through Sept. 2. Unlike other comics, he prides himself less on a work ethic that results in cranking out pages of written material and more on the thrill of walking on stage and winging it with a few backup bits.
“I hated doing stuff that I’d done before,” Gottfried said. “I’m always one of those guys that goes on with nothing prepared and see if something happens.”
Whether something happens on stage or not, something is happening to Gilbert Gottfried based on his career and his interactions on the road. He’s realizing that with his trademark mix of irritating delivery and inflammatory material, he’s found a refreshing amount of unexpected admiration.
“It is funny when someone will come up to me and look really appreciative of what I do,” he said. “It’s funny, years ago, Sally Field won the Academy Award and to this day, people make jokes about her saying, ‘you like me, you really like me.’ I totally understand what she meant by it.”
If you go
When: 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 7:15 p.m. Sept. 2 $22 Friday, $25 Saturday, $20 Sunday
Where: Comedy Off Broadway 161 Lexington Green Circle
More info.: www.comedyoffbroadway.com