We chatted with funnyman Gilbert Gottfried before his next stand-up gig on Long Island. He shared his thoughts on his new documentary, hecklers and which of his voice-over characters would win in a fight. Here is an excerpt of our conversation.
You regularly work the comedy clubs on Long Island. What’s your funniest memory from your time here? I don’t remember from minute to minute, because I’m always grappling some place, so I wind up getting all the places confused. And there are places I swear I’ve never been to, and then I show up and I see a sign on the wall of the club and so I don’t know. But no memories are good memories.
Many comics have complained that heckling seems to be on the rise. Is this true for you and how do you handle them? I tend to ignore them whenever I can because what happens is hecklers, they’re like, drunk and maybe not that smart to begin with, and if you say something, and you insult them, it gets a big laugh, and they hear the laugh, and then they go, “gee I’m really funny!” and that encourages them.
Critics were pleasantly surprised at your revealing your personal life in your recent documentary. What was the reaction like for you? Oh God. That was pretty scary and uncomfortable because, I mention it in the movie, it’s kinda like that scene in Wizard of Oz where he goes “Ignore that man behind the curtain,” and this, to me, was pulling back the curtain. I mean, the funny thing about it is, I’ve seen it a few times, and I’m always uncomfortable watching it, because it’s kinda like the first time you hear your voice recorded or see yourself on any kind of video and you go, “No, no, I don’t sound that way, I don’t act that way.” But reviews have been good! I haven’t seen one bad review.
Where does your stand-up persona come from when you perform live? It’s funny when people ask me that. I feel like it’s like going up to someone on the street and going, “Hey, you know the way you’re holding that cup of coffee and how you sip from it and how you swing your arms when you walk? Where does that all come from?” It’s like I’ve been performing so long that just somewhere along the way, it happened. There was no moment, there was no conscious decision ever. You just, one day wake up and go, “Wow, this is my delivery.” And people always say, “Is that like a relative or something?” And I don’t know.
Given our political climate, have you found it more difficult to push the envelope as far as you have in the past? Wow, I mean, nowadays, I’ve discovered before that I’ve gotten in trouble for stuff I’ve said, but now I feel like wherever you look there’s “someone.” For a while, it was every week there was someone in trouble, some villain of the week amongst celebrities. And now it’s like, every half hour. So it’s a scary time.
Who would win in a bird fight: Iago from Aladdin or the Aflac duck? Iago. In a second. And the duck would be hanging in a Chinese restaurant.
What’s the next big thing you’re working on that should fans be on the lookout for? I don’t know. People ask me, “What’s your next movie.” Well, I can tell you what my next movie is, but I can’t tell you what movie they’ll actually see out there. So I never really know. Most people answer the phone “hello,” I answer the phone, “I’ll take it.” Just recently, the exact second I thought I had the business figured out, it changed. And now the business changes at an incredible rate where it’s like, just recently, I booked something and I said, “What is this, a movie, a TV show?” and just even terms like movies and TV shows seem old-fashioned. There’s all these different ways of watching, and I don’t know. Just as long as the check clears.
Gilbert Gottfried, The Brokerage, 2797 Merrick Rd., Bellmore, brokerage.govs.com. $25. 9 p.m. July 14.