Whether you remember him as Iago the parrot or the man for whom no joke is too tasteless, you definitely remember his voice. Gilbert Gottfried's new book, Rubber Balls and Liquor, is currently in stores. (WARNING: Interview contains some very NSFW jokes.)
They're probably the same ones I'm doing now. I'm lazy when it comes to writing.
How long did it take you to find your style as a comedian? What came first: The jokes or the actual, physical voice?
I don't know how long it took me to find my style of comedian. Not quite sure what that style is. Maybe irritating, annoying and unfunny, but it's just constantly working at it early on and then eventually hopefully you develop something.
Well, in my case, I'm still waiting for the jokes to show up. I'll let you know when I say something funny.
There's a whole younger generation now that knows you mostly as a voice actor. How did you get into voice acting?
Well, most people in the business thought I had a face for voice-overs.
The list of characters you've played is absurd. At some point, say, when you're playing a crime-solving platypus, do you stop asking for context and read the lines?
I get very serious with my voice-over work. In Aladdin, to prepare for the roll, I lived with a family of parrots for a year. When I was doing the voice-overs and the Director said, "Right now the parrot is eating a cracker," I would demand to know my motivation.
Does comedy need to push boundaries to be effective? Does it maybe even have an obligation to do so?
Well, even dead, George Carlin says it better than I ever could. "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." I once Tweeted that line and of course with the IQ level of my fans, most of them said, "Ha ha, you said doody."
My parents didn't get the title of your book. My thirteen-year-old cousin got it instantly. Does this speak at all to your sensibility?
Well, it's based on an old joke. It was the first dirty joke I heard as a kid and people all over the country seem to have heard it too. Everything I say, you say, "Rubber Balls and Liquor". For instance, I had breakfast today. Rubber Balls and Liquor. I had lunch. Rubber Balls and Liquor. What are you going to do with your girlfriend tonight? Rubber Balls and Liquor. Now, the joke doesn't make all that much sense. I could only assume "balls" are a kids way of saying breasts. Although, I've never witnessed a large breasted girl walking down the street and heard guys saying, "Hey, get a load of the testicles on that one." Anyway, judging by the title, you know this is not the type of book where people will complain "I can't read Gottfried. He uses all them big educated words."
In light of recent events (which we at CollegeHumor find overblown and ridiculous) do you still find Twitter a useful tool?
Well, first of all, God Bless you for calling it "overblown and ridiculous". It seemed for a while like the entire world had gone crazy. To the news media, my jokes about the tsunami seemed more earth shattering than the actual tsunami. It seems that the people who need an explanation will never understand and the people that understand will never need an explanation.
The media was calling what I said, "Insensitive comments and remarks." They did that purposely because "comments and remarks" sounds more serious than "jokes." You can't do an important news story saying that a comedian told some jokes. And, it's even harder when you say, "Well, it was Gilbert Gottfried and he told some tasteless jokes." Because then everybody would be saying, "But, wait a minute, when did Gilbert Gottfried ever say any tasteful jokes?"
People make jokes like these during every disaster and tragedy. People make jokes at funerals. I'm sure when Christ was on the cross, there were people in the crowd making jokes. But, in all fairness to those people, he wasn't actually Christ at the time. He was just some schmuck saying he was going to come back to life and people would look at him and say, "Yeah, that'll happen Dracula."
When was the first time you heard the phrase "too soon?" Is it ever actually "too soon?"
There's an old saying that tragedy plus time equals comedy. My biggest criminal act is being impatient. People talking about their job, relationship or vacations can laughingly refer to it as the Titanic. Why is that okay? There are strange rules like that. So, the idea that if enough time has passed it's okay to do these kind of jokes, always struck me as hypocritical.
First time I heard "too soon" was at the Hugh Hefner Roast about 5 minutes after the planes hit the World Trade Center. People all over the world, especially in New York, were walking around like zombies. I wanted the be the first one to tell a tasteless jokes about September 11th. I said, "I have to fly to LA. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a direct flight. We have to make a stop at the Empire State Building." Well, to say, "Lost an audience" would be putting it mildly. There were gasps and people booing. One guy yelled out "Too Soon". I thought that meant I didn't take a long enough pause between the set up and the punch line.
Anyway, I decided to go even further by telling The Aristocrats joke. If you're not familiar with that joke, it's about a mother, father, son, daughter and their family dog all fucking and sucking each other. I totally won the audience back and then some. They were howling with laughter and cheering. It was like the audience was saying, "September 11th jokes are tasteless and shocking, but mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and their families dogs fucking and sucking is perfectly acceptable."
You've voiced Iago the parrot in movies, on television, and in video games. Is he the gift that keeps on giving, or something you wish would go away?
As long as I still get checks from the parrot, he'll be my best friend.
Do you have a favorite dirty joke?
To me, picking out my favorite dirty joke is like asking someone who their favorite child is. But, one that I've always enjoyed, is "How do you get a faggot to fuck a woman?" "Fill up her cunt with shit."
You're actually a family man, with a wife and two kids. Does domestic bliss ever interfere with good comedy? Has having a family ever made you think twice about any of your material?
I've been asked several times if I think twice now before making an off-colored joke. Especially after the entire Japan joke-gate Twitter business. My answer is Yes, I absolutely think twice now before I make a tasteless joke, but I do it anyway.