Arts & Culture » Culture

Quack up



Gilbert Gottfried lives a double life. By day he's a popular voice-over actor for commercials and children's cartoons, by night he's a hilarious, foul-mouthed comedian. Since 2000 he's been the voice of the AFLAC duck, he's spent more than a decade as host of the USA Networks' Up All Night, and he makes frequent, infamous appearances on the Howard Stern show. Gilbert took a pause from his hectic multimedia schedule to plug his upcoming performance at Meadow Brook Music Hall with opener Bill Bushart, Detroit's own blue-comedy king.

Metro Times: Why are you on my TV every time I turn it on?

Gottfried: Um, I guess you did something bad in a previous life.

MT: You're everywhere, you're constantly working. You're ubiquitous.

Gottfried: Yeah, as soon as I figure out what ubiquitous means. I don't know whether to thank you or punch you.

MT: You're constantly working, always busy and you're often playing birds.

Gottfried: It's true. I was a parrot in Aladdin, I'm the AFLAC duck and I'm a bird on Cyberchase, the PBS cartoon.

MT: Pigeonholed, excuse the pun, as a bird man.

Gottfried: [Laughs] My act is for the birds. We go from "ubiquitous" right into puns.

MT: Yet you are still out there doing stand-up. Is that insanity or a passion?

Gottfried: I think both. I have a weird career. It's a tightrope between children's programming and hardcore porn.

MT: Are you ever afraid the corporate suits will be put off by the other stuff you do?

Gottfried: I know I've lost an account or two, but at this point I've built enough of a career. Thank god I've held on to the AFLAC account. I think one day they will wake up and go, "We can fire the actor and replace him with a real duck."

MT: But not a duck with your skill.

Gottfried: You'd be surprised.

MT: Did you enjoy the media attention from being in the movie The Aristocrats?

Gottfried: That was very odd. When they asked me to do it, I thought, "Well, this is a cute little idea for a movie." Penn Jillette was in charge of it and I didn't get anything I would consider special treatment, then when the movie came out I was given the lion's share of the press like they were singling me out.

MT: You were held up as a shining example of foulness, like, you were the most foul.

Gottfried: There's another bird pun.

MT: Is the comedy a chance to do what you want, is it freedom?

Gottfried: Deep down it just has to do with another check. At the end of the day it has only a little bit to do with art.

MT: Is there anything you would turn down?

Gottfried: By the looks of it, no.

MT: You don't seem to be losing popularity. You would think with the act you do, this loud, obnoxious character, people would be sick of it.

Gottfried: [Laughs] It's very odd that they can't get enough of my obnoxiousness, they keep eating it up.

MT: How much time do you spend writing new jokes?

Gottfried: I think the last thing I wrote was a great bit I did about Nixon. And that was when he was running with Eisenhower.

MT: You seem to have a gift for improv, like when you do roasts — or is that cleverly staged?

Gottfried: It comes from not knowing what was going to happen next, and running with it.

MT: Would you want a regular gig like that?

Gottfried: I don't know. I hate the idea of waking up early every morning.

MT: So you like the comic's lifestyle?

Gottfried: I don't like either one, really. I think maybe I'll just become one of those guys that hangs around the studio like "Dan the dummy." Some idiot gets a nickname and then just builds a career out of it.

MT: Do you like doing the talking head stuff?

Gottfried: Oh, yeah, like the VH1 shows where it says "famous person" under your face? Those are fun. VH1 — it's like if you really look at it, they have about five minutes of programming that they just keep running forever.

MT: Once you do I Love the '70s, it's on until 2070.

Gottfried: Yeah they replay those constantly.

MT: Have you thought about doing a reality show? Like Flavor of Gilbert?

Gottfried: I think Paris Hilton is looking for a new partner for her show. I did this one reality show thing just recently where they had me in an abandoned insane asylum. Allegedly there was this ghost — some psychopath — still roaming the halls, but I think he was afraid of me.


Saturday, Aug. 26, at Meadow Brook Music Hall, on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester; 248-377-0478 ext. 100.

Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]

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