Gilbert Gottfried has built a brand around foul-mouthed insult comedy over the years as a stand-up comedian. On that same note, he also has become part of our cultural fabric, addressing boldly issues of race, religion and sex which can be heard on his podcast Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast!. His unforgettable performance in Disney‘s Aladdin as Iago the parrot and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Kraang Subprime have gifted generations with timeless memories and he’s currently the subject of an eponymously-titled Documentary, Gilbert, from Filmmaker Neil Berkeley which premieres at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.
We think we know Gottfried from his outspoken public persona, but Gilbert portrays him as a loving husband, father and brother. We get a private, reserved man, not just the larger than life persona we are so used to seeing.
Our David Baldwin and Siobhán Rich had the pleasure of meeting with the comedy icon earlier and he speaks very candidly about his experience being followed by cameras to cracking jokes in light of tragedy, to the upcoming live-action version of Aladdin.
Why give us such intimate access to your life in this Documentary?
Gottfried: “Because I’m an idiot and a masochist”, he jokes. “Filmmaker Neil Berkeley, came up to me over two years ago and said ‘I’ve always had a dream to make Gilbert Gottfried Documentary.’. I told him, ‘You should really set your dreams much higher!”. “And then he started following me around and it made me uncomfortable every single second. I hated it and I’m too much of a wimp to tell him to go get away from me.”. “In revealing myself, it always seems like that scene from TheWizard of Oz. Don’t look at that man behind the curtain!”.
Having seen the Documentary, what do you think of it?
Gottfried: “The Documentary to me feels like what my vision of hell is. They put a big movie screen in front of you and you’re forced to watch your whole life. The reviews are surprisingly great but boy, it’s torture!”. He adds, “I’m happy to watch myself as Pierre the chef. I don’t want to watch myself as myself.”.
What inspires you?
Gottfried: “The fact that I have low intelligence and no class whatsoever.”.
Tell us about your involvement with Autism Documentary Life, Animated and also St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Gottfried: “More of it happens by accident. I can do wonderful things as long as I’m not directly involved. If I’m involved there’s always a lawsuit and a scandal.”. “For Life, Animated, the son had a puppet of my character from Aladdin. His father would put a puppet (of Iago) on his hand and started talking to his son and his son reacted like a old friend.”. He recalls, “My wife and I got in touch with the father and had me surprise his son at the school for autistic children. They had a Disney club and they were re-enacting Aladdin. I walked in and they went crazy.”.
“St. Jude Children’s Hospital is a hospital for little children and I thought, I was gonna get in trouble. People were tearing-up and I got up there and think, this is really officially gonna end my career. I go up there and my joke starts with ‘This blind guy goes to a hooker…’ and the audience is laughing. They loved it.”. “And I look over at the man whose daughter had cancer and he was smiling with a glow around his face. And I thought, this is what comedy can do in a tragic situation.”.
“The first thing in tragedy no matter how poor taste it is, is crack jokes. I got a standing ovation.”.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming live-action adaptation of Disney’s Aladdin?
Gottfried: “They haven’t asked me to do it, but I think any Film that doesn’t use me is making a major mistake.”.