OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR and WNYC's hour of trivia, puzzles and word games. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and our VIP - you know him from the Comedy Central roasts. He's the voice of the parrot Iago in "Aladdin." He's appeared on dozens of reality competitions and, of course, he's known for a famous telling of "The Aristocrats." Please welcome comedian Gilbert Gottfried.
EISENBERG: Welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER. Your first standup act was when you were 15 years old. At what club?
GILBERT GOTTFRIED: I was at The Bitter End.
EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.
EISENBERG: Was it a comedy night?
GOTTFRIED: It was called Hootenanny night. And it was like you just sign your name there and whatever you did. If you did sword swallowing - most of them were folk singers.
EISENBERG: 15-year-old Gilbert Gottfried, and what was your act like?
GOTTFRIED: I did mainly impressions. It's like Boris Karloff and Humphrey Bogart. Even back then my act was dated.
EISENBERG: But you've made a name for yourself as a comedian who, you know, pushes the envelope, crosses the line, says the things that shouldn't be said. So do you think that, like - you've been doing comedy for, whatever, four decades - are people more sensitive now than they were, you know, in the '80s, lets say?
GOTTFRIED: Well, nowadays I feel like every joke should come with a set of instructions. That like if you think the joke is funny, laugh and if you don't think the joke is funny, don't laugh. Like, you know, it's gotten a little crazy. Everyone, every, like - now when you say a joke, you have to apologize right afterwards.
EISENBERG: And do you think comedians should apologize?
GOTTFRIED: No, no. It's like I think an audience, like, when they go to a horror movie or get on a roller coaster, they want that feeling like they're going to die and then get off and everything's OK. And I think when they see a comic, they want to feel like something bad could happen. And with me something bad is happening...
GOTTFRIED: Because they've spent money to see me. When they say ladies and gentlemen, Gilbert Gottfried, they'll go well, that's a bad thing.
GOTTFRIED: This can't be good.
EISENBERG: Too soon, you know, the idea of saying a joke - making a joke right after a tragedy - you have done that quite often. Do you think any material is off-limits?
GOTTFRIED: No. Yeah, I just do it. Every time something pops in my head, I think twice about it and I do it anyway.
EISENBERG: So let's talk about a moment that was partially caught on television and then lives forever on the Internet. And of course, everyone in the audience that was there enjoyed it. You were doing a roast of Hugh Hefner. And why don't you explain to us - I'll let you tell the story of what happened.
GOTTFRIED: Well, it was a few days after September 11. And they were originally going to cancel the roast and everyone was scared. A lot of people canceled their flights coming into New York. And it was like still - it was like just a couple of days. And there was black smoke still floating in the air. And I decided I'm going to go up there and be the first one to do a really poor taste.
GOTTFRIED: So I said I have to leave early tonight. I have to catch a flight to LA. I couldn't get a direct flight. We have to make a stop at the Empire State Building.
GOTTFRIED: And that got boos and hisses. And people were yelling stuff out and people were getting up to leave. And one guy yelled out too soon, which I thought meant I didn't take a long enough pause between the setup and the punchline.
GOTTFRIED: I should've said one, two, three, Empire State Building and then it would've worked better. My timing was off.
EISENBERG: Now, you've said that tweeting is a very expensive hobby for you.
GOTTFRIED: Yes. (Laughter).
EISENBERG: Do you think twice before you tweet a joke?
GOTTFRIED: Yeah, but I send them out anyway. It doesn't matter anymore. What jobs do I have to lose now?
GOTTFRIED: But I remember when that happened, when AFLAC fired me, one guy tweeted me and he said, AFLAC fires Gilbert Gottfried after discovering he's a comedian.
EISENBERG: Right. I mean, that is your role. And so when something happens, do you feel - when you're pushing the envelope, it's sort of your turning mainstream on its head - but when the mainstream is expecting you to offend them, does that make you go I don't want to do it?
GOTTFRIED: Yeah. I find out what tragedies are going on in the world because on the Internet, people are tweeting me and sending e-mails going hey, how about a joke about, you know, those 10,000 people who just died? And I feel like no, you're expecting it now.
GOTTFRIED: That kind of kills it. You're not going to get offended and scream for my death.
EISENBERG: So people are always afraid when they come on our show about the game. And when we were talking about your game - now, we know you're an expert at reading erotica from that fantastic "50 shades Of Grey" excerpt that you read.
EISENBERG: It is - yeah, so we had to, of course, take advantage of your trademark voice. People - I love hearing the descriptions, so people say it's grating or obnoxious or screeching, but they forget the most obvious - seductive.
EISENBERG: So we want to take advantage of those golden pipes in a game about some of history's and literature's best-known couples. So let's welcome our two contestants, Ben Haber and Ginger and Haber.
EISENBERG: Clearly you are a couple.
BEN HABER: We are, we are.
EISENBERG: Yes, married.
B. HABER: Married, 10 years.
EISENBERG: Ten years?
B. HABER: Ten years.
EISENBERG: Now you're going to play against each other. What's at stake here?
B. HABER: Oh everything.
EISENBERG: What does the winner get or the loser?
B. HABER: Well, first of all, the respect of our children, you know, my dignity as the man of the house. But other than that, she's going to give me a whole bunch of stuff that you can't really say on NPR.
GINGER HABER: That's right.
EISENBERG: Ten years in, you've got to win a quiz, huh?
B. HABER: Right.
G. HABER: It's true.
B. HABER: It's a lot of work.
G. HABER: It's true.
EISENBERG: This could bring you together because it's called Passionate Proclamations with Gilbert Gottfried. You know the old saying the sweetest of all sounds is the voice of the one we love. So he's going to pitch you a little woo and you have to identify the couples we're portraying. Got it?
B. HABER: Got it.
EISENBERG: All right. Take it away Gilbert.
GOTTFRIED: My darling
JONATHAN COULTON: Yes, my love?
GOTTFRIED: Wherever I go, I carry a piece of you with me, like a rib. You're my one and only - literally, you are the only man around.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
B. HABER: Adam and Eve?
EISENBERG: It's like early Tinder.
GOTTFRIED: My little red-haired firecracker.
EISENBERG: Yes, dear?
GOTTFRIED: Aye Yai Yai, the rest of the world may adore you in black-and-white reruns. But I treasure you live in full color. If you ever leave me or our joint production company, you'll have some 'splainin' to do.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
B. HABER: Lucy and Desi?
GOTTFRIED: (Speaking Spanish).
EISENBERG: (Speaking Spanish)?
GOTTFRIED: Our love could fill a thousand murals. Everything about you excites me. Your paintings, your politics, even your eyebrows and little mustache. (Speaking Spanish.)
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
G. HABER: Frida Kahlo and Diego.
EISENBERG: Exactly, yes indeed.
EISENBERG: And this is your last love woo.
GOTTFRIED: My darling.
COULTON: Yes, Gilbert Gottfried?
GOTTFRIED: Are you busy later tonight?
COULTON: We'll talk after the show.
GOTTFRIED: When I got marooned in Africa, meeting a man was the furthest thing from my mind. But then I saw you my beloved, swinging through the trees in that amazing little loincloth. I went ape.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
B. HABER: Tarzan and Jane?
EISENBERG: Tarzan and Jane.
EISENBERG: Puzzle guru Greg Pliska, how did our couple do?
GREG PLISKA: Well, I have to say congratulations Ben. You're going to win - you're going to win all of that stuff that you can't say on the radio.
B. HABER: Nice.
B. HABER: Sorry Ginger.
PLISKA: And whatever that stuff is, you'll be doing it in an ASK ME ANOTHER anagrammed T-shirt.
EISENBERG: Thank you so much, Ginger and Ben.
B. HABER: Thank you.
EISENBERG: And how about a hand for our VIP Gilbert Gottfried?
COULTON: (Singing) If I should stay, I would only be in your way. So I'll go, yet I know I will think of you each step of the way.
GOTTFRIED: (Singing) And I...
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
GOTTFRIED: (Singing) I will always love you. I'll always love you. I'll always love you.
EISENBERG: Gilbert Gottfried.
COULTON: That's exactly how I imagined it would be.
EISENBERG: That's a - it was unbelievable. It was unbelievable.
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