Comedian Gilbert Gottfried honed his stand-up act for four decades, appeared in cult projects such as USA’s “Up All Night” series and “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” and notably voiced Iago in Disney’s “Aladdin.”
Even if his name is not familiar, you definitely recognize the voice.
While a provocative Twitter joke cost Gottfried his voice work as the AFLAC duck, he’s still going strong with his “Amazing Colossal Podcast” and returns to Helium this weekend for five shows.
Q: You’ve been to Helium in Buffalo a couple of times now. How have your experiences here been so far?
A: I don’t know. I have sympathy when I see these funny stories about a politician or rock star yelling out, “I love you Oklahoma,” and they’re not in Oklahoma at the time. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I don’t know where I am. There are places I swear I’ve never been to, then I go to the club and I see a sign on the wall (and recognize it). I would have to go there again and see a certain doorknob or something that will wake me up.
Q: You’ve been hosting the “Amazing Colossal Podcast” for a year now about showbiz legends and old Hollywood.
A: I’ve always been fascinated by the show business that I’ve grown up on. I wanted to get as many people who were still around from those time periods. I was originally going to call the show, “Before It’s Too Late,” but I thought it might be hard getting people by saying, “Oh, can you do my show because I think you’re going to be dead any second.”
Q: What is it about old Hollywood that fascinates you?
A: When I was growing up, it seemed like the greatest film school in the country was in your living room. TV would have old movies on all the time. There would be one station that would specialize in the old Cagney gangster films, the other ones would have the original Frankenstein and Dracula (films).
Q: Now there’s only one station that plays that: Turner Classic Movies.
A: Yeah, you’ll have these specialized stations that you have to look out for. I also remember there were variety shows on TV that had a lot of acts. If you wanted to see a rock group or a comedian that was on, you’d have to sit through the other acts and you got to experience that. Now you don’t have to experience anything. You go, “Oh, I’m not interested in this type of music, so I’ll go right to this other station.”
Q: Do you think Hollywood has lost a bit of its mystique with social media and tabloids documenting celebrities every day?
A: Oh yeah. Years ago, you couldn’t email Clark Gable and say, “Hey, your last film sucked.” These were people way up there that the average people couldn’t touch. Now I feel today that everybody’s a writer, performer, director and commentator.
Q: You’ve been in a ton of movie and TV projects, but many people remember you fondly from “Aladdin,” which is about to be rereleased again. What did that movie do for your career?
A: It certainly bred more voice-over work over the years. I knew when I was doing it that it’s a Disney film and that’s big, but I had no idea how big it would get. It’s one of those few things that I’ve done that I can say was a success and there was some respectability to it.
Q: It’s definitely endured with the Disney machine, but I imagine you now have people coming to your shows that grew up watching “Aladdin.”
A: Oh yeah, there’s that. You never know where people will be fans of you from. I realize how many people were watching USA’s “Up All Night” over the years, but when I was doing it, I didn’t feel like it was anything. Now people go, “I used to stay up all night watching it.”
Q: With your stand-up career, you’ve been a provocateur for a long time. Have audiences changed dramatically since you started doing stand-up in terms of being more sensitive or easily offended?
A: Yeah, that’s another thing that the Internet seems to have been made a large part of. It used to be that the last safe place you can do anything was at a (comedy) club. Now you do something at a club, it will be recorded and played on the Internet, then the Internet becomes your judge and jury. With the Internet, it’s made me sentimental for old-time lynch mobs because at least they actually have to leave the house to get their hands dirty.