As I was allowing myself to slip into a depressive nap, mostly due to the lack of assignments with the agency that I write content for, I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell the next few months of my life will look like. Instead of focusing on ways to make a month’s worth of money in a couple weeks, I decided to just let myself drift. I slept for a while.
When I woke up, one of my oldest friends had texted me that Gilbert Gottfried was dead.
I knew just from watching his documentary that he was struggling with something and likely wouldn’t be long for this world, but at 67, damn he didn’t get a lot of time out of this life. Maybe it’s true what they say. It’s the miles.
I remember being mesmerized by Gilbert on USA Up All Night as a kid, and I thought Ronda Shear was sorta…exploitative? Somehow Gilbert was always hilarious. I will always remember the time he was at a boat show, pretending to be in the middle of a storm. Then they played some bullshit movie like Reform School Girls or Stuck on You. You watched the show for the bumpers, where Gilbert had 30 seconds to alter your consciousness while ads for Silk Stalkings, phone sex hotlines, and spray on hair tempted you with their wares for the next five minutes until the forgettable movie started playing again.
In my repertoir of impressions, Gilbert was right up there. Not relevant then, not necessary now.
Most people my age knew him as the parrot in Alladin, or the duck from the Aflac commercials. His standup was like an extended version of USA Up All Night. He was merciless. But almost…wholesome. Jeez, Gilbert was everywhere. I didn’t start listening to Howard Stern until 1999 when I moved to Denver, and frankly I never understood the appeal, but today I’ve been listening to old clips when Gilbert was part of the ensemble of talent that the hole of Howard Stern surrounded itself with to make a donut. His work on Stern was gold.
His documentary showed a sweet man surrounded with a loving family, doing his same bullshit bits at the Poconos clubs, goofing with napkins and paper plates. I got the impression he was struggling financially, but still putting in the hours in spite of whatever health problems were kicking the hell out of him. I think he was a comic from another era, more at home with some kind of vaudevillian fuckery than his contemporaries.
I used to listen to his podcast for a while, during the early part of the pandemic. He was like a funny Joe Rogan, somehow with access to even better guests. I listened to a lot of podcasts at the tail end of the job which unceremoniously shitcanned me after 19 years. I would wake up at 7:57am, log in to my computer, log in to MicroSquash Teams, and put a podcast on the other screen so it made it look like I was at my computer. Then I would go back to bed for a few hours. The only real difference between the end of that job at home and the majority of it at my desk was my eyes were open most of the time at my desk.
If only I had known how much of an influence on my own growing mind as a young man that Gilbert Gottfried would have had on me today…I probably would have been a bigger Ronda Shear fan. Or thrown myself in front of a bus.