Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, best known for the scratchy voice work he has used to create such characters as Iago the Parrot in the classic 1992 Disney animated film “Aladdin,” and as the former spokesduck for Aflec Insurance commercials, will be performing stand-up at the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club in San Antonio from April 10-12. I caught up with Gottfried, 60, earlier this week on the phone to talk about his new podcast, how the entertainment industry has changed over the years, and why he would never accept an offer to eulogize someone.
Do you remember the last time you performed in San Antonio?
God knows. I totally lose track of places I’ve been to. Whenever they show those clips of a politician or rock star yelling out, “I love you, Oklahoma!” and they’re in a totally different state, I completely understand how that happens.
Well, when you think of San Antonio, Texas, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
I think of a tumbleweed going by. (Laughs)
San Antonio sounds like a pretty boring place!
(Laughs) Yeah, maybe an occasional shootout happens, too. I’m used to it though. Usually during my shows someone pulls out a gun.
You started your podcast Gilbert Gottried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast about 10 months ago. So many comedians have taken this route in recent years. What made you want to do it?
I don’t really know. People were telling me to do it and I don’t really give things that much thought. It’s what everyone is doing nowadays, so I thought I would start. I didn’t know what I would talk about, but I really like talking about stuff that has to do with old show business. So, I aimed for that for the most part. So, we’ve had people like Boris Karloff’s daughter on the show. We had [TV and radio personality] Joe Franklin on right before he died. We’ve had Henry Winkler and Adam West on.
Yeah, so far your guests have been pretty diverse. What do you look for when you’re deciding who to bring on?
I look for guests I find interesting to me. Usually the guests that I have on are ones that people haven’t heard of. It was a surprise because I thought no one would like the podcast if they didn’t know the person. But I’ve been getting all these Tweets from people saying, “I had no idea who you were talking to or the people you were talking about, but I loved listening to it.”
Did it ever cross your mind that maybe they love listening to it because you have such a great voice for podcasting?
(Laughs) Yeah, I think I have that classic radio voice. It’s always between me and Morgan Freeman.
Have you ever been asked to do any voiceovers like Morgan Freeman? Would you ever eulogize someone, maybe?
I think one time someone ask me if I would do their eulogy. But I’m afraid those gigs don’t pay much.
That’s why you have to ask for the payment before the guy dies.
Oh, yes. As soon as the guy starts coughing, I want to get paid.
You started as a stand-up comedian in New York City when you were a teenager. Are comedy tours still fun for you or does it feel like a job now?
Sometimes when I’m coming into a new town with my suitcase, I feel like Willy Loman. So, it depends. Sometimes I enjoy it. Other times I just have to force myself.
When you come into new cities, do you try to craft your material for those audiences?
Not that much. Every now and then I’ll say something that has to do with the city. It varies if something hits me. I was lucky enough to be booked in Toronto when the mayor, Rob Ford, was in trouble with drugs and God knows what else. So, I was there right on the day that scandal started. So, all you had to do was say his name and people started laughing and applauding. It’s like the jokes didn’t even matter. Hopefully some big official in San Antonio will be found with a dead hooker when I get there.
Well, the only controversy in San Antonio right now is that our city council won’t allow Uber to operate in city limits. Not sure if you can do anything with that.
(Laughs) See, that’s already funny.
Do you ever think about your comedy legacy as your career progresses?
I’ll have these people say to me, “Isn’t it great that years after you’re dead people will still remember you as Iago the Parrot?” I always think, “Well, I’d rather they totally forget about Iago the Parrot and I just stay alive forever.” (Laughs)
You’ve gotten in trouble for things you’ve said or tweeted in the past. You were famously fired from your gig as the Aflac duck for making what the company thought were disrespectful remarks about the Japanese tsunami in 2011. Do you have a filter as a comedian or is controversy not really something you worry about?
Well, now when think about saying something, I think twice and say it anyway. (Laughs) I guess I’d be more gainfully employed if I thought about it.
Do you feel people are too sensitive when it comes to comedy?
Oh, yes, especially on the internet. I always say the internet makes me feel sentimental for old-time lynch mobs. At least a lynch mob had to actually go out and get their hands dirty. (Laughs) Show business used to be separate from everything else. If we had the internet back then, we’d probably see Clark Gable tweeting that “Gone with the Wind” sucked.
As someone who appreciates how Hollywood functioned back in the day, what do you think about people who get YouTube famous?
It’s scary. Show business years ago featured actors and singers who were big stars. There were newscasters and columnists and writers you’d look up to and listen to. Now, it’s everybody. It’s a weird thing. Nowadays being a star means you filmed yourself squeezing a blackhead and 20 million people watched it on the internet.
Now that you have your podcast going, is there anything else you’d like to try or learn about when it comes to new media or technology?
I have a cell phone that I barely know how to make calls and get calls. I still haven’t figured out how to put people on hold. The technology of podcasts or anything like that, I don’t know what I’m doing.
But at least you can work a toaster, right?
(Laughs) I’m starting to get the hang of that, yeah. Maybe when I’m 80 I’ll know how to make a good piece of toast.