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Q&A: Gilbert Gottfried opens up about comedy career, upcoming Boston show

Posted by Matthew Juul  March 13, 2014 08:12 AM

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Known throughout the world for his distinctive and iconic voice, comedian Gilbert Gottfried has been making audiences laugh for decades. The former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, who will be performing at Laugh Boston on March 16, recently spoke over the phone with to preview his upcoming show. See what Gottfried had to say about his career in comedy, his time on "SNL," and more. As a longtime veteran of the comedy scene, do you still get a rush from performing?

Gilbert Gottfried: Itís different. It depends. Sometimes you can get a rush. I mean, more and more like any job you do, I feel like sometimes when I go into a comedy club, itís like Iím a traveling salesman. Why do you say that?

Gottfried: Well like, you know, just showing up in towns Ė other times itís fun! I know you started stand-up at 15, so you've been in the business for a while. Have you seen any major changes in the Boston scene or comedy in general?

Gottfried: Yes. The only thing that I've really noticed is Ė I mean the Internet. The Internet has changed everything. I still donít quite understand it and how many ways it has. One thing I noticed is that there are people who prefer to get their three jokes and immediately film themselves and put it up on the Internet. So, Iím glad it wasnít around when I was starting, because it takes a while to develop a style, and material, and whole other stuff. If you were starting at 15 today, how do you think youíd fare in this age of technology?

Gottfried: Iím thankful that I donít have anything on film from back then because Iíd totally cringe. But you donít even know that back then. So now people, you know, they have no experience doing it and they film themselves and itís up there for eternity. Over the years, youíve done a lot of the Comedy Central roasts. If you could pick someone in history to roast, who would it be?

Gottfried: I donít know. Maybe if Christ comes back, he could be the victim of a roast. Itíll just be totally no luck for him when he comes back to the here. Who would you want roasting you if you were the subject of one of those specials?

Gottfried: Wow, thatís a, hmm. Well it canít be Sid Caesar, obviously. Just as an aside, what are your thoughts on his passing?

Gottfried: Itís sad, but itís also like, you know, he was 91. I donít think the police were looking for signs of drug abuse. Did he influence you at all?

Gottfried: Oh yeah! I mean all those. I've watched Sid Caesar and heís made me laugh. I remember, growing up, the greatest film school in the country was in your living room. Of course, they would play these movies constantly, old movies. Like, we would watch the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. In the past, some of your jokes have caused a bit of controversy. For you personally, where do you draw the line between something being funny or offensive?

Gottfried: Obviously not much of a line with me. Whatís always been the case whenever thereís been any kind of tragedy that occurs, thereís always been like at least 10 jokes Ė even before the Internet. Ten jokes would come out immediately that everybody would be telling each other, whether itís around the water cooler or on the train, everyone would tell each other. So, no one ever said, ďOh, thatís like so wrong to do.Ē And thatís another thing with the Internet, itís like a lazy lynch mob. I kind of am sentimental of the old lynch mobs, where they actually had to put their shoes on, go out and get their hands dirty. Do you believe the Internet has made it easier for people to get riled up over things without knowing the context?

Gottfried: Oh yeah. I mean, even like Steven Martin apologized for something on his Twitter account. Thatís when I thought, this is really getting ridiculous. Should comedians even be apologizing for jokes?

Gottfried: I feel like, nowadays, every joke should come with a set of instructions that if you think itís funny, laugh. If you donít think itís funny, donít laugh. And I think that people have sort of forgotten that. If itís funny they laugh. If they donít find it funny, they become outraged. Thereís a villain of the day. Speaking of controversy, you were on ďSaturday Night LiveĒ during a tumultuous time in the 80s. What are your thoughts on your time on the show, as well as some of SNLís recent controversies, like Keenan Thompsonís statement regarding black female comedians?

Gottfried: I havenít really been following that. I know they hired some black comedienne, but itís something that I never really noticed one way or the other. I know when I was on, it was a terrible time to be on because it was right after the original cast left. And, back then, it was like if in the middle of Beatle-mania, you said, weíre continuing the Beatles but with four other guys. Thatís what ďSaturday Night LiveĒ was when I was on it. I kind of always felt like that, it was the sacrificial lamb. It was like the next James Bond after Sean Connery left was the sacrificial lamb, everyone hated him. And now thereís been, you know, about 50 different James Bonds. Beyond the controversies, what are your thoughts on some of the newer seasons of SNL?

Gottfried: When my season showed up, it was like, there they have these new people weíve never heard of them. And now like, the cast seems to change between commercial breaks. So, I have a really hard time keeping up with them. They come and go so quick. Even from your season, a lot of the cast members have gone on the become comedy legends. Do you think some of the newer casts have the same potential?

Gottfried: Yeah. Itís always hard to tell. Iíve become a horrible judge because, after youíve been doing something a long time like comedy, Iíll watch a comedian and, at best, Iíll kind of nod my head and go, oh that was kind of clever. Itís harder and harder to laugh at stuff, as far as comedy goes. Why do you feel that way?

Gottfried: Itís also that Iíve been doing it for a long time sort of thing when I watch a comedian. Back to your current endeavors in comedy, what have you been working on?

Gottfried: Well, a lot of live stuff. I get called in still to do voice overs, a voice of some villain for three episodes for the ďTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.Ē So yeah, I still do that. I know you've done a ton of voice over work throughout the years. Do you enjoy it?

Gottfried: Oh yeah, itís fun! You donít have to shave, you donít have to bathe Ė you donít even have to put your pants on! Now, I read in a recent Playboy piece you wrote that you think itís a myth that women love funny guys. Do you still stand by that?

Gottfried: Thatís the January or February issue with Kate Moss on the cover. Yeah, I wrote an article about how women always claim theyíre attracted to a guy with a sense of humor Ė I still say thatís totally bull. You've been married for a while now. Howíd a funny guy like you swoon your wife?

Gottfried: I have no idea. Iím just incredibly well-endowed. Yeah, itís just shockingly. Itís hard to even walk. For people who may not be familiar with your stand up act, what can they expect from your show when you come to Boston?

Gottfried: I think that they can expect to sit there for about five minutes, then look at each other and look at each other and go, “Whoís idea was it to go see Gilbert Gottfried?Ē

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Stephanie Callahan is a native Bostonian who loves cooking, traveling, spa treatments, and being on the ocean.

Meghan Colloton is a Bostonian who loves traveling, channeling her inner Julia Child, and trying weird things -- from food to bungee jumping.

Milva DiDomizio is a New England native who's fond of cooking, singing, and Boston's arts and culture scene.

Rachel Raczka is a Bostonian who enjoys buttercream frosting, gin cocktails, and conquering cobblestone streets in high heels.

Emily Sweeney is a Boston native who goes out all over, from Irish pubs in Southie to the roller rink in Dorchester.

Emily Wright is a native Cape Codder who enjoys exercising, baking, and the occasional guilty pleasure action movie.


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