Few people can make it through life without an introduction. All it takes to recognize famed comic Gilbert Gottfried is listening to his novelty car horn of a delivery before you realize you’re in the presence of [gasp] a celebrity. But the living legend has always felt he’s anything but one, though that won’t stop Gottfried from taking the stage at the State Theatre on Saturday with the same abandon he’s been defined by throughout his nearly 50 year career.
Whether you know him from his days as a young stand-up comedian in New York City in the 1970s, as Iago from Disney’s “Aladdin” or even one of his many raunchy sets for celebrity roasts, Gottfried is one of those Hollywood characters who finds a way to stick with you no matter how long he occupies the stage or screen. Surprisingly, he doesn’t hold the same opinion as his audiences do.
“I feel like show business is a party I snuck into and any day now somebody’s going to come over to me with a clipboard and say ‘Oh, your name is not on the list,’” Gottfried said, turning his trademark sardonic sights on himself.
Gottfried believes that his career is, in his own words, an accident. He concedes that he didn’t decide on being a comedian with any well-thought-out purpose. However, Gottfried does acknowledge a secret weapon — “stupidity” — where he was able to ignore the odds that were against him and not consider how ridiculous it would be to scratch out a meager living, let alone be successful.
Try as he might to downplay his own path, Gottfried’s self-described stupidity lends him an ingenious knack for tapping into society’s Id while performing. Some notables include “If only ‘The Simpsons’ could wipe its ass in front of Seth MacFarlane, he could learn to do it, too” and for making the first joke about 9/11 just over two weeks after the attack took place.
“Everybody enjoys those kinds of jokes, but nobody wants to tell anybody that they enjoy those kinds of jokes,” Gottfried added. “They just feel like they have to cover their face and laugh when they hear them.”
While Gottfried prefers to long jump over the line instead of merely crossing it, his delivery serves as the “Ba Dum Tss” to let people know they’ve got the greenlight to chuckle along. Though the origin story of his joke cadence eludes even the comedian himself. He likens it to the intuitive way one swings their arms when they walk…it just kind of happened.
What’s been more of a concentrated effort for the Brooklyn native has been his transitions from stand-up to movies to now the internet and podcast realm. Right when Gottfried thought he figured the business out, it changed up on him by becoming so geared toward digital audiences. And with that change, he’s also seen people’s attitudes toward celebrities take on a new life as well. Where before they were practically demi-gods, now people are quick to try and tear down anyone with status the moment they utter something that is deemed unsavory — especially comedians.
But Gottfried continues bumbling his way to prominence, remembering the good fortune he has to be where he is. He’d seen millions of people follow their passion into show business, only to end up with nothing. It’s why for him, every time he takes the stage, he’s still trying to be reminded he’s funny.
Gilbert Gottfried will be performing at The State Theatre (220 N. Washington St., Falls Church) on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 9 p.m. For tickets, visit thestatetheatre.com.