Wave a check and you can buy a comedian.
By JOHN BENSON
CLEVELAND -- Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is a working paradox.
This veteran comic, known for his squinting, bitter personality and outrageously dirty diatribes in comedy clubs throughout the world, is also a sought-after talent for voiceover work in decidedly un-adult, un-hip venues.
"I just love anything where they wave a check in my face," said Gottfried calling from his home in New York City.
Largely recognized as the wise-cracking bird Iago in the Disney classic "Aladdin," Gottfried has found a lucrative second career. In addition to lending his voice to the cyber-bird character Digit on the long running PBS Series "Cyberchase," the New York City native and resident is also the voice of the duck in the popular AFLAC commercials.
"I've cornered the market on obnoxious birds," Gottfried said. "So, I guess ... yeah ... my career is for the birds. But I was a dog in 'Dr. Doolittle 2' and then there was a series of ESPN commercials where I was a dog. So, I kind of branch out every now and then."
Gottfried admitted to being somewhat perplexed that he hasn't been blacklisted by the educational children's television industry for his adult standup material or conversely by the comedy world. "Hopefully, I'm offending both sides," Gottfried said. "My career is somewhere in between early morning children's programming and hardcore porn. I seem to be walking a tightrope."
If Gottfried hasn't offended anyone yet, that could change with the new documentary movie "The Aristocrats," which opens in Cleveland Aug. 12 at the Cedar Lee Theater. The movie explores a vile and longtime insider's joke among comedians and features interviews from over 100 comics. Gottfried is the centerpiece of the film. Specifically, his telling of the joke at a Hugh Hefner roast, just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when America's nerves were raw and emotions were running high, is considered a landmark performance.
"It was at that time where people were saying, 'Oh, this tragedy has occurred. Nobody can ever do jokes again,'" Gottfried said. "So, I decided I'm just going to go for broke and I did some bad taste September 11th jokes and then I followed it by just being as gross as possible. And it just became like a big deal. I was already working dirty up there because it's a roast. And it's not like, 'Hey, clean it up. Hugh Hefner and his eight girlfriends are here. You have to work clean.' And I figured, he can't hear anyways."
One obvious consequence from having such exposure in "The Aristocrats" will be overzealous audience members calling for him to tell the revered joke. Gottfried said he wouldn't be surprised if someone does so during his upcoming Northeast Ohio visit Aug. 12 and 13 at Hilarities 4th Street Theatre.
"The funny thing about it is," Gottfried said, "since 'The Aristocrats,' which I think the most offensive part of the movie is that none of the comics were paid, usually my regular act is clean."