With his iconic voice and provocative jokes, Gilbert Gottfried has become a legendary performer in comedy. Now his life and career are the subject of a new documentary, “Gilbert,” that is working its way through the film festival circuit now. He’s also the host of his own show, “The Amazing Colossal Podcast,” where he interviews Hollywood veterans.
Gottfried talked about the documentary and his appearances in the “Sharknado” franchise, including the new "Sharknado 5: Global Swarming," during a recent phone interview. He performs Aug. 10-12 at Helium Comedy Club.
Question: How do you prepare your material to keep your act fresh? Do you spend a lot of time writing at home or working bits out on stage?
Answer: A little of both. Sometimes, if you don’t, you wind up doing bits that you’ve been so long that you could be working out mathematical problems while you’re doing the bits.
Q: Trump is in the White House now, and you’ve had some experiences with him as a contestant on the “Celebrity Apprentice.” He’s a guy who definitely says whatever is on his mind. As a comic, has that changed your job as a comedian and social commentator? Are you still feeling the effects of a politically correct culture?
A: Number one, I don’t usually do political stuff. A lot of people ask me that, "Now that Trump is in office, you must have a lot of new material." It doesn’t effect me in that way. Sometimes I get the feeling that one of the reasons Trump got into office was that he didn’t watch what he said. It would be outrageous stuff, and I think there are a lot of people now who are getting tired of watching what they say. They found him refreshing. As far as political correctness, if you go on the Internet and tell everyone you like green jelly beans, you’re going to have somebody flying into an outrage. Everybody now has an opinion and can just tell the world their opinions. It’s a strange time period.
Q: You’re the subject of a new documentary, and in other interviews you’ve mentioned you were not jazzed about doing the film. What are your thoughts about it after seeing it?
A: It’s strange. The filmmaker, Neil Berkeley, approached me and said, "I’ve always wanted to do a Gilbert Gottfried documentary." I said to him, "You should set your dreams a little higher." He did it, and I’m too much of a wimp to say no. He would show up at my house and just observe me during the day, ironing my shirt or whatever. He would follow me to various clubs. To my shock, it’s gotten good reviews, because when I watch it, I envision this must be what hell is like. You die, and then you are forced to witness your entire life.
Q: Did you enjoy working on the “Sharknado” movies?
A: It’s funny. They pretty much rush it along and don’t spend too much time on any logic. In “Sharknado 4,” I was supposed to be driving through Texas, and Texas was filmed in Central Park [New York]. Because if you’ve ever been to Central Park, you of course go, "Wow, how did I end up in Texas?" In this one ["Sharkado 5"], they called me and said, "Now you’re going to be in Africa, and we’re going to film it in Central Park.’ Because when you’re not thinking about Texas, you’re realizing you’re in the jungles of Africa. I’m sure if they make "Sharknado 6" and it takes place in Paris, I’m sure it will be filmed in Central Park.
Q: Do they let you improvise in the movie?
A: They’re pretty loose with it. They give you a script, but it’s one of those things where they’re not going to stop you and say, "Wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense."
Performances are at 8 p.m. Aug. 10, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Aug. 11 and 12 in Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St. Tickets are $20-$33. Info: buffalo.heliumcomedy.com