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Gilbert Gottfried Says His Humor Flirts Between ‘Children’s Programming and Hardcore Porn’

Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian who people either love or hate. Recently fired from his job as the voice of the Aflac duck because of jokes he tweeted about the tsunami in Japan, the abrasively voiced comic shows no signs of mellowing. In his new memoir, ‘Rubber Balls and Liquor,’ he writes sparingly about his personal life but includes lots of behind-the-scenes stories of how he became a stand-up comic.

Explain the title of the book.
You have to say it a few times very fast. It’s one of the first dirty jokes that you learn as a kid. It really doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. All I can figure out is balls probably means breasts unless you’re going out with a transexual.

Are you a bit upset you finished the book before getting fired by Alfac? It’s sort of the perfect ending.
I know. It kind of reminds me of those E! Hollywood specials that are done while the person is still alive, like one on Anna Nicole Smith. All of a sudden they had to tack on a new ending with a sentence going, “Oh, she had an overdose and died.”

Were you a bit surprised you got fired? After all, you’ve always been controversial. Surely Aflac knew what they were getting when they hired you.
Yeah, also my name became a bigger news item than the actual tsunami. The funny thing about it is people ask, “Are you sorry about what you did?” And I think about it. I had done this stuff all the time before and I think it’s like if you wake up every morning for years and eat a bowl of corn flakes and then one day you wake up, eat a bowl of corn flakes, and all hell breaks loose. So your first instinct is, “Oh, why did I eat the corn flakes?” Your second one is “…wait a second. I did it every day.”

Do you regret telling 9/11 jokes two weeks after it happened? Do you understand why people were upset?
Yeah but it’s the kind of thing where these kind of jokes have always been around. I have a video up on Funny Or Die called ‘Too Soon.’ It’s me doing jokes throughout history. I’m sure that when Christ was on the cross there were people there turning to each other and making joke. And it surprises me that if someone makes a joke they’re considered “insensitive,” and yet if someone else wears a little pin on their lapel or a little ribbon, that makes them a good person.

Yes. There was lots of backlash, though.
The press weren’t calling them jokes, they were calling them “comments” and “remarks,” because if you refer to something as a joke people go, “Yeah who cares, it’s a joke.” My favorite thing is they would say, “Well this hurt the people of Japan,” and I always think, well, what that means is that when the tsunami was hitting Japan, the Japanese were running to their computers, logging onto my Twitter account to see what jokes I made.

Would you have had the balls to do 9/11 jokes in front of, say, a group of firemen?
Oh yeah, I always do, whether it’s good or bad. It’s always been around. That week when it happened I attended a funeral and at the funeral people were going up to the podium and telling funny stories about the deceased. People were laughing and making jokes about the guy in the lobby. People just do that. It’s been around since the beginning of time. Like when Michael Richards got into trouble for using the N-word. I heard it and I thought, I don’t think he’s a racist, he was just saying it for shock effect. A lot of comics came to my defense like Howard Stern, Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, a bunch of people.

Does it seem sometimes your career happens in spite of you?
It seems to be. What always amazes me is the best thing that can happen to your career is when people say it’s over because they usually say that on the cover of a magazine or the top news story of the night and I’m thinking, when a person’s career is over, they can’t pay to be the top story of the night.

It’s funny how you’ve carved out a career as a cartoon voice.
Yeah, it’s funny. I say my career walks the tightrope between early morning children’s programming and hardcore porn. It’s a very strange career.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I have any feelings whatsoever.

I think people would also be surprised to know that you have kids.
Yeah, one is almost 4 and the other is almost 2.

Are you a good dad? Do you ever push your kids on the swing?
I’ve done that. I’m a better dad than the one in the Mamas and the Papas. [Mackenzie Phillips disclosed in a memoir that she had a sexual relationship with her father, ‘Papa’ John Phillips.]

Well that’s not saying much! Besides, that stuff happened much later.
You mean he pushed her in the swing first? Well, that’s only polite. It’s romantic; that way he got to know her first. [Laughs]

Do you have a favorite thing to make fun of?
I don’t really have anything in particular. I guess lots of people dying and tragedy. [Laughs]

 

 

By Nicki Gostin

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