Comedian Gilbert Gottfried has died According to a post on his verified Twitter feed, he died following a long illness. He was 67.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried has died

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1092411804/1092463150" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

The comedian Gilbert Gottfried has died. He was 67 years old. According to his social media accounts, Gottfried died after a long illness. The Associated Press quoted his longtime publicist as saying he died of a disease that damaged his heart. Among his comedy peers, Gottfried was known as a boundary pusher, always telling the joke no one wanted to say but maybe everybody needed to hear. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this appreciation.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: You knew him from his voice. Just listen to this joke of his from Just for Laughs in 2015.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: You know, I read somewhere that Hitler had a grandson who was a convicted child molester.

LIMBONG: And that look on his face when he was about to deliver a punch line that was going to make half of the audience crack up and the other half groan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOTTFRIED: Imagine being the embarrassment to the Hitler family.

(LAUGHTER)

GOTTFRIED: Is there anything worse than being the Hitler who the other Hitlers don't talk about?

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBONG: Gilbert Gottfried was born in Brooklyn in 1955. Growing up in New York, he was mostly a shy and quiet kid. He started doing standup at open mics around town when he was 15. And he got some attention. He got cast on "Saturday Night Live," as well as acting gigs, including "Beverly Hills Cop II" and Iago, the talking parrot in "Aladdin." But he seemed most comfortable on stage in front of a microphone performing for an audience, even if acting somewhat antagonistic towards the crowd was part of his bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ONE NIGHT STAND")

GOTTFRIED: I saw "The Last Temptation Of Christ." He dies at the end.

(LAUGHTER)

GOTTFRIED: Oh, I ruined the movie for you.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBONG: This is from his HBO special in 1992. And even then, he's poking at societal norms.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ONE NIGHT STAND")

GOTTFRIED: When they named the picture "The Last Temptation Of Christ," they had no idea it was going to do that well at box office. Now, they're already working on the sequel called "Absolutely The Last Temptation Of Christ."

(LAUGHTER)

GOTTFRIED: "The Last Temptation Of Christ: The Temple Of Doom."

LIMBONG: Sometimes that poking got him in trouble. Famously, shortly after 9/11, he made a joke about 9/11. In the 2017 documentary about him titled "Gilbert," he talked about how it was almost instinctual for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GILBERT")

GOTTFRIED: That's the way my mind works. I wanted to basically address the elephant in the room.

I have to catch a flight to California. I can't get a direct flight. They said they had to stop at the Empire State Building first.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBONG: You can hear someone in the crowd literally yell too soon, an idea Gottfried didn't believe in. Here he is talking to NPR in 2011.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GOTTFRIED: There's that old saying tragedy plus time equals comedy. And I always say, like, well, why wait?

LIMBONG: He kept his guard up a lot of times in interviews. Even in that documentary about him, he talked about being uncomfortable about the whole process of letting people in.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GILBERT")

GOTTFRIED: I'm scared they won't like what they see or they'll - whatever they like about me, whatever they're entertained by, they might not...

LIMBONG: He trails off. The movie cuts to a clip from "The Wizard Of Oz," and he compares himself to the man behind the curtain.

Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.