Gilbert Gottfried

Active - 1985 - 2020  |   Born - Feb 28, 1955 in Brooklyn, New York, United States  |   Died - Apr 12, 2022   |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Few actors are more polarizing in the responses they elicit than the eternally obnoxious, terminally whiny Gilbert Gottfried. Those who have heard his voice are not likely to soon forget his shrill, fingernails-on-the-chalkboard delivery; and those who have seen him are no doubt familiar with his squinty-eyed persona and overly dramatic mannerisms.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1955, Gottfried was the youngest of three children and began to refine his unique comic persona (a persona Gottfried describes as being "somewhere between Pat Boone and Jeffrey Dahmer") at the age of 15. Quickly gaining a reputation as a talented comic who was often considered an acquired taste, Gilbert toured as a stand-up comic until he gained his first taste of national exposure on the otherwise forgettable 1980-1981 season of Saturday Night Live. A period of transition in the long-running comedy series, given that producer and founder Lorne Michaels had recently departed along with the talented cast, Gottfried's involvement was short-lived as Michaels soon returned to revive the series with a new cast and writers. Moving on, as a member of the cast of Alan Thicke's equally disastrous late-night effort Thicke of the Night in 1983, Gottfried would soon turn to bit parts in films before helming his own latenight schlock-a-thon, USA Up All Night.

The replacement for perennial cult favorite Night Flight, USA Up All Night specialized in airing the worst of the worst, constantly scraping the cinematic drivel from the bottom of the barrel, with Gottfried at the helm as its gleefully annoying host. Continuing to work in film and television while serving as master of the B's, Gottfried appeared frequently on the small screen in Duckman and at the movies in Problem Child (and its sequels) before kicking off a successful turn in animated character voices with his role as Iago the Parrot in Disney's Aladdin (1992).

A frequent guest of Hollywood Squares and The Howard Stern Show, Gottfried's vigorous vocal chords lend themselves to an amusing variety of impressions, as well. Inspired by Universal monster films of the 1930s, Gottfried is well known for his spot-on Dracula impression (interchangeable with his Pope impersonation), and many others that he frequently incorporates into his stand-up act.

He maintained his reputation as one of the funniest, and often most offensive, stand-up comics of his generation, never bothering to commit to a film career, but taking parts here and there, very often in animated projects. He had a long run as the voice of the Aflac duck in a series of commercials for the insurance company, and he made a memorable impression in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats where his infamous telling of the title joke at a Friar's Club Roast stands as arguably its definitive rendition.

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  • Quit school at the age of 15 to pursue comedy and acting in New York.
  • First big break was when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1980. He was on the show for only one season.
  • Started squinting his eyes during his act out of nervousness.
  • Introduced his trademark raspy voice during an episode of The Cosby Show in 1987.
  • Launched a successful voice-over career in 1992, providing the voice to Iago the Parrot in Aladdin.
  • Voiced the duck in the AFLAC commercials from 2000 to 2011.