Gilbert Gottfried is on the phone. Gottfried is, among other things: (a) a maniacal and weird and wickedly funny young comedian; (b) a hilarious survivor of Jean Doumanian's reign over "Saturday Night Live," often accounted the worst season of "SNL" ever; (c) one of the funniest and best things about "Beverly Hills Cop 2," and (d) a man who will storm the stage of the Marquee at the Tralf at 8 and 11 p.m. this evening.
"Storm" is the right word. Picture a combination of Robin Williams, Sam Kinison and your immigrant Uncle Max and you have Gilbert Gottfried in action.
We're asking the usual interview questions:
What was it like trying to survive on the worst year of "Saturday Night Live" ever?
It was like punishment for something I did in a previous life. I must have been Hitler before this. It was right after the original cast left. They were attacking the show before it even went on the air. They were saying how bad it could be. If they had just waited until it got on the air, they'd have seen how bad it was. If people could only be more patient.
What was it like when everyone in the cast was fired except Joe Piscopo?
At that point I really didn't care. It's just as well. I don't think anyone's ever left "Saturday Night Live" with good feelings. If you asked most people, they'd have weird feelings about it. Right now, after all these years, saying "the worst season in the history of 'Saturday Night Live' " is like saying "the issue of Playboy with the naked girl in it." No one expects the show to be funny anymore.
What was the atmosphere like (as a cast member) on "Thicke of the Night"?
Can we talk about cancer instead? Something light?
That was another weird situation, not quite as dramatic as "Saturday Night Live." After I left, Alan Thicke had Arsenio Hall as his sort of Ed McMahon, which is one of the things Arsenio Hall conveniently forgets in his interviews.
You don't, though.
I'm nice like that.
Your act is wild. Has anyone gotten after you to tone it down?
Some agents and managers, I think. You just nod your head and sit there with a frozen grin on your face until they're through talking. The few times I've ever listened to agents and managers, it's always been wrong. Sometimes they talk to you and the extent of their advice is, "Could you make it more funny?"
Your act looks as if it takes a lot out of you. Does it?
It does. Sometimes when I have a few shows a night, I envy those comics who are laid back. I'm up there screaming. After a while my throat hurts. I'm tired. Then they go, "OK, you've got two more shows to do."
How were you when you were first starting out?
You always have a lot to learn. If I had learned, I would have left the business. When I started out, I was pretty much the way I am now, which is a comedic sex machine.
Who are your contemporaries among comedians?
Allen and Rossi.
Gee, I don't know. They all committed suicide.
Well, I suppose Joe Piscopo. He couldn't lift 5,000 pounds then -- which is the important thing -- marry a 12-year-old and lift weights. I think that's very important to comedy -- marry a little girl and just lift weights for the rest of your life. Steroids and comedy go hand in hand.
Who are you friendly with in the business?
No one. They see me and they cross the street.
Me and Gregory Peck. We're like this.
I can't even watch comedy. I think after you do it for a while, you can't look at comedy anymore. It's sort of like hanging around the office on your day off.
Who are the older comics you like?
I like most of the older guys more so than the younger -- the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny.
You have some movies coming out soon. What are they?
I've got a part in the Andrew Dice Clay movie "Ford Fairlane." I play an obnoxious deejay. I have a part in "Problem Child" with John Ritter, where I'm an obnoxious adoption agency worker. Then I did just one scene in this film called "Highway to Hell" where I played Hitler.
There seems to be a common theme there. Are you hoping for the big Eddie Murphy-Chevy Chase-Robin Williams crossover into movies?
I think a lot of people just want to keep working -- to be comedy's answer to Martin Balsam.