Gilbert Gottfried is a nice guy. No really. The veteran comedian, slight of frame but gigantic of voice, is without question one of the filthiest, raunchiest and most consistently hysterical comedians working. On stage he’s fearless; a tiny volcano of rude, profane hilarity. On the phone, he’s polite, warm and self deprecating, and he doesn’t bark his answers in his trademark nails on a chalkboard screech. I spoke with him ahead of his shows Friday shows at Ferndale’s Magic Bag Theater. He’s touring now in support of his semi biography Rubber Balls and Liquor, and in part to counter the firestorm he caused back in March with some ill advised Tweets about the Tsunami disaster in Japan, which cost him a very lucrative gig as the voice of the Aflac duck. No stranger to controversy, scorn or bad taste, Gilbert remains committed to being funny at all costs. And yes, he’s still on Twitter.
Metro Times: Did you send Anthony Weiner a gift basket for taking the heat off you?
Gilbert: I sent one gift basket to him and another one to Tracy Morgan. (Morgan is currently in hot water for homophobic jokes in his act)
MT: Boy did Tracy step in it. But is hearing a bit of homophobia a surprise to anybody who has ever seen a comedian before?
GG: Lately everyone seems surprised at everything. Like no one who has seen me before should be surprised at what I come out with.
MT: And you would think people that come to see you have an idea what they’re getting?
GG: Oh yeah. I was in the star role in the Aristocrats, I did the first September 11th joke, I’ve done all of the Roasts and the Howard Stern show forever, now it’s like all of a sudden
MT: Your record should be clear...
GG: That I’m not totally a Mr. Rogers type?
MT: Do you think there are still people that only see you in mainstream venues, like on Jay Leno, that don’t know what you do?
GG: I don’t know. Even on Leno I yell “ Son of a Bitch!”
MT: Then Tracy Morgan gets caught saying things that black comedians have said for decades, Eddie Murphy built a career on homophobia, but people were shocked by this?
GG: I should become his writer. We work very well together it seems.
MT: What do you think of comics who have writers? I’m guessing you don’t, because who could write your stuff?
GG: Most people guess I don’t have writers because why would I pay someone to write horrible comedy like mine. On TV shows most of the time they have writers, but for my stand up, no I don’t have writers. I don’t know. Maybe it’s ok, Frank Sinatra didn’t write all of those songs.
MT: Well you have such an obvious voice that can’t be copied or faked and has to come from you, and you’ve never cared, you just proceed ahead doing what you do.
GG: Oh yeah, obviously!
MT: And that was made very apparent in this whole mess with the Japan jokes.
GG: Once again that’s the kind of jokes I’ve been doing for years. The funny part about it is this business man emailed me, and he said he does business in Japan and now it’s very popular over there to go around to bars and what not and make jokes about the Tsunmai, and I thought that doesn’t surprise me at all. People make jokes at funerals.
MT: Do you think as a comedian it’s almost impossible to be offended, and it’s like when other people have allergies, and you don’t really think about it until they start sneezing?
GG: My typical thing is if it’s a joke about somebody else I’m not really offended. If I make a joke about somebody’s family dying in a fire, that’s allowed, but if they make a joke about the shirt I’m wearing; then I think they’ve gone to far.
MT: Isn’t it weird that you even bothered with tsunami jokes, because the have a shelf life of maybe two weeks?
GG: That’s why I came out with them so quick.
MT: And with the internet and Twitter you have to move fast.
GG: The old saying is “Tragedy plus time equals comedy”, and my biggest crime is that I’m impatient. Had I waited a week or so it may have been different. I realized this when I turned on the TV a week later and the top news item was that Chris Brown had a temper tantrum at Good Morning America.
MT: People have to be punished, you lost a big contract, Weiner is going to be thrown out of congress
GG: I’ll probably be in more trouble along the way.
MT: It’s been a good career so far, you always find a way to recover.
GG: Maybe they’ll bring back Murder She Wrote and I can do a guest spot.
MT: I think you would make a great detective: you could irritate the suspect with jokes and complaints until they gave up.
GG: At least I could be the dead body.
MT: Is this all in your book ?
GG: What critics have said is that at times it’s warm and touching and then quickly veers off into immature and dirty. It’s like talking to me in person.
MT: That sounds like a perfect summary of your career.
GG: (Laughs) Exactly!
Friday June 17th at the Magic Bag, 7 and 10 pm
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