An interview with Gilbert Gottfried
AN INTERVIEW WITH
Thursday, Sep. 20.
Will perform tonight
in Kresge, 8 pm.
By BILL JACKSON
COMEDIAN GILBERT GOTTFRIED, the self-styled "most obnoxious Jew in the world," seems to be everywhere lately. His many appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, his guest shot on The Cosby Show, and his role as host of USA Cable Network's Up All Night have given him national television exposure. Since big-screen audiences first noticed him in Beverly Hills Cop II, he has appeared in many films, most notably the recent summer hits The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Problem Child.
In addition, he writes a weekly feature for National Lampoon, "Gilbert Gottfried's Page." Love him or hate him, his squinting, yelling stage presence is hard to miss. I had the opportunity to interview Gottfried over the phone, but surprisingly, he was rather quiet, dare I say reserved, during the interview. His sense of humor, however, was intact.
Gilbert, you've billed yourself as the most obnoxious Jew in the world. Who'd you knock out of first place?
Surprisingly, Barbara Mandrell.
One question people have about you is, do you have eyes, and if so, what color are they?
You seem to play such a wide variety of parts. When are you going to settle into one kind of character?
Well, I'm eventually gonna take the Daryl Hannah parts.
Do you think you could wear the fins?
Yes. They're fitting me for them as we speak.
Is your blonde hair going to cover your breasts?
Yes. They're having it attached with Crazy Glue. Also, I am right now having sex with Jackson Browne.
Is he "Running on Empty"?
You're playing a benefit for Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) here at MIT this Tuesday. How do you feel about playing for an MIT audience?
Um -- it's playing for a benefit that annoys me.
No money in this for you?
Are you going to pick up any money here in Boston?
I just hope I pick up something in Boston.
There are many things you wouldn't want to pick up in Boston.
You do have quite a reputation as a ladies' man. What's your best pickup line ever?
A lot of celebrities have their own colognes now. Cher and Elizabeth Taylor come to mind. What would a Gilbert Gottfried cologne smell like?
You wouldn't want to know. It would be the kind of cologne that, um, you'd definitely get a seat on the subway with.
What comedians influenced you when you were starting out?
George Gobel. (laughs) No, generally I think influence is used as a nice word for plagiarism.
And you don't plagiarize.
I try not to. No, actually I steal everything from Bob Newhart.
``The Button Down Mind Of Gilbert Gottfried"?
Does your comedy come from your relatives or friends you've known?
Well, I didn't have any friends, and my relatives, they all annoy me, so. . . .
One thing that strikes me is that you are quite different than the character Gilbert we see on stage. How much of that character is actually you?
Um, well, offstage I'm a lot like Pat Boone.
In that I have a daughter named Debbie who sings "You Light Up My Life."
One of the projects you work on is the monthly feature for National Lampoon. How do you come up with ideas for the page?
Well, I start out with the idea, how can I be photographed in a room with naked girls? And then I just build off of that.
You've worked with some of the top names in show business. What was it like to work with Bill Cosby on his show?
Well, I got paid off in caseloads of Jell-O. But the problem is, I had to sit in his lap and have him talk to me while I ate it.
How about Andrew Dice Clay (in Ford Fairlane)?
He's actually exactly like Phil Donahue in real life. He's sensitive; he cries. He gives to women's causes.
How about Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop II?
Yeah, he's actually a tall white man.
Special effects these days.
Yes. He's actually kind of Nordic-looking.
What was John Ritter like on the set of Problem Child?
Well, um, John hired me at the last minute because Norman Fell cancelled out.
Are you serious?
Yes. Well, they also tried to get Joyce DeWitt. They thought I was as close as you can get. She was demanding too much money anyway.
What projects do you have coming up?
I'm doing an all-white version of Porgy and Bess.
Um, let's see. Well, I did do Look Who's Talking, Too.
With Rosanne Barr as one of the babies' voices?
Did you get to meet Rosanne at all?
Oh, yes. She was my body double.
Would you like to say anything about SADD, who you'll be performing for Tuesday?
Nothing I'd like printed. OK, wait -- none of the money actually goes to the cause. It's all being pocketed.
Rich Hall and Gilbert Gottfried will appear tonight as part of the Pontiac All Star Comedy Caravan at 8 pm in Kresge. Admission is free, but a donation is requested to benefit Students Against Driving Drunk. MIT/Wellesley ID required.