Gilbert Gottfried’s voice is totally normal when he isn’t performing.
It wouldn’t have mattered at all to me if Gottfried, a veteran stand-up comedian, actor and voiceover man, embodied his stage persona during our Wednesday morning phone interview and ramped up his volume to celebrity roast level because, as lucky as I have been to chat with truly great comics over the years, I’ve only interviewed a few legends. Gottfried, this week’s headliner at Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh, is one of them despite his claims that movie theater vendor might have been a more suitable job for him.
Wednesday was the first time in a long time I’ve been nervous before an interview, and while I was somewhat excited by the fact that I can still get anxious talking to a comedian I’ve enjoyed for years, Gottfried instantly eased any fears I might have had by providing thoughtful and funny answers to my questions. We discussed president-elect Donald Trump, who fired Gottfried during a season of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” what Gottfried was thinking when he tried stand-up for the first time at 15 years old, whether his kids liked hearing his voice in “Aladdin” and more.
Tony Castleberry: As a person who has worked with Donald Trump, what kind of president do you think he will be?
Gilbert Gottfried: Um, let’s see. Well, I wasn’t expecting him to be president, and sometimes, I doubt he was expecting it. [interviewer laughs] It’s a strange time period.
TC: It is, and I think you’re right about him not expecting it. In some of the video and even the still photos I’ve seen of him since the election, it seems like he’s a bit overwhelmed, like he can’t believe it. Do you get that sense too?
GG: It does kind of seem that way. It seems like it started out as a gag that somehow blew up.
TC: Let’s hope that we all don’t blow up with him. Did you know at 15 years old that you wanted stand-up to be your career or did you just feel like trying it?
GG: I wanted show biz to be my career and what I always say is, what I had going for me back then was stupidity. [interviewer laughs] I didn’t think about the odds, like how it’s one in a few million you make any career out of it and all the rejection you’ve gotta go through all the time. When you get older, you see things in a more logical fashion so now when people tell me they want to be in show business, I think, what are you? An idiot? [Gottfried, interviewer laugh] Back then, luckily, I was an idiot.
TC: It’s blissful ignorance, you know?
GG: Oh, absolutely.
TC: Did you tell your kids you were the voice of Iago before they saw “Aladdin” or let them discover it on their own?
GG: I think I may have told them. I mean, after a while, they kind of start figuring it out.
TC: Did they think it was cool that you were a big part of the movie?
GG: I don’t know. [Gottfried laughs] I don’t know if they ever thought it was cool. I guess they were kind of interested in it.
It’s funny when you get a few years older and you’re a parent. They would watch “Aladdin” 20 times a day, and I would walk through the room going, “Hey, can you turn that crap off?” [interviewer, Gottfried laugh]
TC: Is there any show business job you haven’t done that you’d like to do?
GG: Selling popcorn at a movie theater.
TC: Really? Why is that?
GG: Number one, I feel like it’s the only thing I might be equipped for, and two, I can swipe all the candy bars that I want.
TC: [laughs] I feel like you could get that job, Gilbert. Have you applied?
GG: I’m afraid of the rejection.
TC: It always comes back to that doesn’t it?
GG: Yeah. Now that I’m older, I realize how many other people wanna sell popcorn.
TC: Very true. Approximately how many times has an audience member told you a joke after a show and have any of them been even a little bit funny?
GG: Generally they’re not, and usually within the first two words, I can guess the punchline.
TC: Does that still happen?
GG: Yeah, and sometimes, since they’re not professional comics, they’ll tell you a joke that could be said in one line that takes them an hour and a half.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
Whenever I start spiraling into despair about Trump, I think about how much he royally fucking hates his life right now and it calms me.
— Michelle Biloon (@biloon) November 17, 2016