Gilbert Gottfried death: who was comedian, and what roles did he play - including voice of Iago in Aladdin
Gilbert Gottfried gave his distinctive voice to the parrot Iago in the 1992 animated Disney film Aladdin
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Gilbert Gottfried, the actor and stand-up comic known for his raw, scorched voice and crude jokes, has died aged 67.
Gottfried was best known for voicing the wise-cracking parrot Iago in the 1992 Disney film Aladdin.
Jon Stewart, Marlee Matlin and Seth MacFarlane are among those paying tribute to the “politically incorrect softie”.
Who was Gilbert Gottfried?
Gottfried was an American stand up comic and actor, born on 28 February 1955 in New York City.
He began his stand up comedy career at the age of 15, when he began performing at open mic nights.
Talking to Time Out in 2005, Gottfried said that he would mainly do impressions during these performances, usually of other comedians that had done standup the same night.
He said: “Back when Jerry Seinfeld was just another comedian hanging around the clubs, I’d imitate him to amuse myself and the other comics. The club owners would say, “What are you doing that for? Nobody knows him.” And Seinfeld would be at the bar going, “That sounds nothing like me!””
After a few years doing the circuit, he was hired as a cast member in season six of Saturday Night Live after being spotted by the producers.
From there, Gottfried started appearing in other roles, in which he developed his trademark style of speech - an over exaggerated grating and shrill voice that wasn’t actually his regular talking voice.
Gottfried was known for his crude humour, having been described as the likes of “one of America’s filthiest stand ups” despite simultaneously being “one of the most successful voice-over artists in children’s entertainment” by Mark Binelli in a profile in Rolling Stone.
Following an appearance at the 43rd Primetime Emmy Awards, Gottfried found himself in hot water with broadcaster Fox after making a series of masturbation jokes about Paul Reuben (best known as the character Pee-Wee Herman) who had been arrested for masturbating during an adult film at a theatre.
While the East Coast saw his set live, Fox censored the jokes for the West Coast. The company called Gottfried’s jokes “irresponsible and insulting” in its apology.
He told Time Out: “The producers were making apologies, saying they’d never have me back again.”
Gottfried also made a joke about 9/11 around three weeks after the attack, during a Friars Club roast of Hugh Hefner, in which the audience responded with gasps and declarations of “too soon!”
In his 2005 Rolling Stone profile, Gottfried said he “just wanted to be the first” to make a 9/11 joke.
Gottfried, who had given his voice to the mascot in adverts for American insurance company Aflac, found himself dismissed from the role after tweeting 12 controversial jokes about the earthquake disaster in Japan in 2011.
In one of his tweets, Gottfried wrote: “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”
In his 2012 op-ed for CNN, he wrote: “I have always felt comedy and tragedy are roommates.
“If you look up comedy and tragedy, you will find a very old picture of two masks. One is tragedy. It looks like it’s crying. The other mask is comedy. It looks like it’s laughing.”
What was he in?
Throughout the course of his career, Gottfried (and his very recognisable voice) starred in a number of films and TV shows that you’ll likely know him from.
Some of his most notable roles include:
- Sidney Bernstein in Beverly Hills Cop II, 1987
- Mr Peabody in Problem Child, 1990
- The voice of Iago the Parrot in Aladdin, 1992
- The voice of Mr Beetle in Thumbelina, 1994
- The voice of Compulsive Dog in Dr Dolittle, 1998
- Duck in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2004
- The voice of Jerry the Bellybutton Elf/Adonis in The Ren & Stimpy Show, 1994
- The voice of Large Possum in Bear in the Big Blue House, 1997
- Denny the Distractor in Sesame Street, 2008
- The voice of Kraang Subprime in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014 - 2016
Gottfried also starred as himself in a number of projects as well, including The Aristocrats, Gilbert Gottfried: Dirty Jokes, The Comedian’s Guide to Survival, Gilbert, Comedy Central Roast: Bob Saget and Last Comic Standing.
Gottfried additionally hosted the podcast Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast from 2014 to 2022, which featured Gottfried chatting with the showbiz legends, iconic and behind the scenes talent that shaped his childhood and influenced his comedy.
Was he married?
Gottfried is survived by his wife, Dara Kravitz, and their two children.
He met Kravitz at a Grammy Awards party in the 1990s and they married in 2007.
Talking to the New York Times, the couple reflected on their first meeting. Kravitz said that when she dropped food on a table, “Gilbert picked it up and put it on his plate”.
She said: “I looked at him, like, “Who is this guy?” He looked sad and lost and childlike. I thought he was adorable.”
The pair appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap in 2013, where Kravitz switched places with actress Tanya Callau, the wife of Growing Pains star Alan Thicke.
They welcomed their first child into the world the same year they got married, in 2007, their daughter Lily. Their son, Max, was born two years later in 2009.
When did he die?
Gottfried’s family confirmed the news of his death on Tuesday (12 April) through a statement posted on his Twitter account.
It said: “We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness.
“In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children.
“Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honour.”
Gottfried’s representative and longtime friend Glenn Schwartz said that the comic died from a heart abnormality called ventricular tachycardia due to myotonic dystrophy type two.
According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Centre, myotonic dystrophy type two is an “inherited muscular dystrophy that affects the muscles and other body systems (e.g heart, eyes, and pancreas)”.
Tributes for Gilbert Gottfried
Following the news of his death, his fellow Hollywood stars took to social media to express their sadness, condolences and memories of Gottfried.