Gilbert Gottfried, the iconic actor and stand-up comedian famed for his raw, burned voice and obscene gags, has died. He was 67 years old at the time.
According to his publicist and lifelong friend Glenn Schwartz, Gottfried died of a rare inherited muscle illness that can cause a dangerously irregular pulse.
Gilbert was a loving husband, brother, friend, and father to his two young children, in addition to having the most legendary voice in comedy. “Please keep laughing as loudly as possible in Gilbert’s honor, even though it is a terrible day for all of us,” his family stated in a statement released on Twitter.
Gottfried was a fiercely independent and purposefully odd comedian’s comic, equally capable of clearing a room with anti-comedy as he was of killing it with jokes.
On Twitter, standup comic Colin Quinn remarked, “The first comedian I saw who would go on and all the other comedians would go in the room to watch.”
With several performances on MTV in its early days and a brief tenure in the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s, he initially gained national notoriety.
Gottfried also performed a lot of voice work for kids’ shows and movies, most notably in Disney’s “Aladdin,” when he played the parrot Iago.
“Look at me, I’m so irritated that I’m molting,” Gottfried stated in a scratchy voice early in the movie as his character lost feathers.
He’s best known to the younger age as the voice of Digit the bird on PBS Kids’ “Cyberchase.”
Gottfried was particularly fond of doing obscure and antiquated impressions, such as Groucho Marx, Bela Lugosi, and Andrew “Dice” Clay, for as long as he could milk them. As a guest on Howard Stern’s show, he would frequently do those voices, forcing scores of people to ring in and ask Stern to dismiss him.
To get rid of lingering guests at his early club, the Comedy Store in Hollywood, the managers would have him do his version of then-unknown Jerry Seinfeld at the end of the night.
Gottfried was particularly well-liked by his fellow comics and entertainers.
One of the highlights of Jon Stewart’s early standup career was getting to open for Gottfried.
“Just indescribably extraordinarily hilarious,” Stewart tweeted, “he might leave you gasping for air.”
On Twitter, actor Marlee Matlin stated, “I am very heartbroken to learn of Gilbert Gottfried’s death.” “Funny, politically wrong, yet on the inside a softie.” We met several times, and he even replaced my interpreter on a plane as a joke.” (Gottfried reminded me a lot of Matlin’s American Sign Language interpreter, Jack Jason.)
Following Will Smith’s Oscar night smack of Chris Rock, Gottfried was interviewed by The Associated Press last month. While he took the incident seriously, stating that it may endanger other comedians, he couldn’t help but crack a few jokes.
“All I had to worry about before going on stage was wearing a mask,” he remarked. Now I have to consider whether or not to wear a football helmet.” “If Will Smith is reading this, my God, please don’t come to my gigs,” he said later.
Several well-known comedians have died this year, including Louie Anderson and Bob Saget.
Gottfried tweeted a photo of the three men together in January, writing, “This photo is so sad today.” Bob Saget and Louie Anderson, may you rest in peace. Both were wonderful friends who will be missed.”
Gottfried, the son of a hardware shop owner and a stay-at-home mother, was born in Brooklyn. At the age of 15, he began performing stand-up comedy as a hobby.
When he secured a slot on “Saturday Night Live” with Eddie Murphy in 1980, he felt he was getting his big break. On the other hand, he was given very little to do on the show.
He subsequently said that playing the body in a skit about a funeral was a low time for him. He’d only last 12 episodes.
But he’d make his own way, doing MTV skits and appearing on chat programs as both a popular and despised guest.
He appeared in the films “Beverly Hills Cop II” and “Problem Child,” and hosted “USA Up All Night” from 1989 to 1998, where he featured awful movies.
He also has recurrent parts on “Ren and Stimpy,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and various “Aladdin” spin-offs.
Gottfried’s act wasn’t always well-received. Aflac Inc. removed him as the voice of the duck in ads in 2011 when the comic wrote an insensitive tweet about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
At the Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner, little than a month after the 9/11 attacks, Gottfried made jokes about planes making stops at skyscrapers, which drew booing and screams of “Too soon!” Many in the audience mistook his response for a message that he thought it was the comedian’s role to remain crass at all costs.
Last month, he told the Associated Press, “Hilarious is funny to me.” “I’ll feel sorry for something I say that doesn’t make people laugh because it’s not humorous or an ad lib that doesn’t work.” But if it makes people laugh, I feel like I’m the comic, and that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
His harshness and love of old-timey standup style made him a wonderful contributor to television roasts, and his harshness and love of old-timey standup style made him an ideal contributor. He was known for his vicious and unrelenting insults at roastees such as Matlin, George Takei, and Roseanne.
“Like most monsters, she only has one name,” he remarked during the Roseanne roast, leaning towards the microphone with his fists splayed out and roaring himself hoarse. “That name is Rozilla,” says the narrator.
Takei stated on Twitter Tuesday, “I shall miss you, my buddy, my sometimes foil, my always ache in my side, generally from the belly laughter.” I’m sure the heavens are a lot louder now that you’re out there. Gilbert, keep ’em laughing and shaking their heads.”
Gottfried is survived by his wife Dara, sister Karen, daughter Lily, 14, and son Max, 12 years old.