At the age of 15, Gilbert Gottfried began doing stand-up at open mike nights in New York City, and after a few short years became known as “the comedian’s comedian.”
“Growing up, I was one of those kids who watched lots of TV and became fascinated with what I saw, especially old movies. I was also the kind of kid who would joke around a lot and keep people laughing with my imitations of old movie stars like Boris Karloff and Humphrey Bogart.
“Eventually, I decided I wanted to be in show business. I just didn’t know what I‘d be doing,” said Gottfried, about to take the stage at Helium Comedy Club in Center City Sept. 11–13.
Fortunately, it didn’t take him too long to find out. when his sister told him about a club in New York that was holding open mike nights. She suggested Gottfried try out his comedic skills there. After several years of mastering the art of stand-up, Gottfried was spotted by the producers of Saturday Night Live, and in 1980 was hired as a cast member.
“But it wasn’t the best time for any of us,” he remembered. “The original cast had just left the show, and it was like being in the middle of Beatlemania where the Beatles had just parted and they said OK you guys. Now it’s time for Harry, Artie and Phil.”
And so Gottfried lasted only one season on the show. It wasn’t until a short time later when MTV hired him for a series of improvised promos for the newly formed channel that his star began to shine, leading to several television appearances, which soon led to roles in film. After his performance as the wise-cracking parrot “Iago” in the Disney classic Aladdin, Gottfried became one of the most recognizable voice-over talents. And his signature voice could be heard in several commercials, cartoons and movies, including the frustrated duck in the AFLAC insurance commercials.
In fact, always viewed as rather controversial with jokes that are often X-rated,, it was during that time that he was fired after tweeting controversial jokes about the 2011 Japan tsunami.
“Looking back, I think the whole thing was blown out of proportion,” Gottfried said. “Even today, people are talking about it and ask me what I would do differently if I could go back in time. Well, I think if I could go back in time the first thing I would do is kill Hitler. Then I’d create the Internet. The idea of building a time machine so you could send out different tweets is ridiculous.”
Gottfried said he was sorry to have been fired and losing the work, “but I’m not sorry for telling jokes. After all, that’s what comedians do!”
After years of doing what comedians do, Gottfried, 59, admits he still enjoys making people laugh.
“Some nights are better than others, but you always have to remember that to the audience this could be the first time they are seeing my show, so I can’t put in any less energy or effort than the nights before.” ••
For times and ticket information, call 215–496–9001.