My wife and I recently visited the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York. Despite its somewhat remote location, the center houses an impressive and comprehensive collection of all aspects of comedy — including films, props, costumes and awards. Through numerous interactive displays, the world of comedy is explored, reviewed, analyzed and, of course, celebrated. In a secluded area, accessed by a nondescript elevator, a small room devoted to “blue” humor is behind a closed door surrounded by many large warning signs. Once the decision is made ignore the warnings, the door is opened and guests are greeted by a huge placard that reads “MOTHERFUCKER” in large block letters, offering a precursor to what is yet to come. The walls are lined with excerpts from controversial routines by Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Redd Foxx among other comics known for their “adults only” humor. On one monitor, a film clip of Gilbert Gottfried delivering a lengthy take on the infamous “Aristocrats” joke while performing at a celebrity roast of Hugh Hefner, shortly after the September 11 attacks plays on a loop. During our visit (and I’m sure at all other times), a small crowd of broadly-smiling guests had formed around that particular monitor.
With Gilbert Gottfried’s surprising and untimely passing on April 12, 2022, I thought about two of the funniest things related to the comedian — and neither one of them was part of any stand-up routine. In 1986, a young Gilbert Gottfried wrote an article for National Lampoon’s “Hot Sex” issue. The piece was entitled “How Not to Get Laid.” It read like a standard instruction manual offering the finer points of how to avoid sex. At its conclusion, the article was summed up with a simple directive that listed the three places where one was guaranteed not to get laid. Those places were (according to Gilbert): 1) A Star Trek convention. 2) The lobby of a Star Trek convention and 3) Anywhere within a 10 block radius of a Star Trek convention.
More recently, my wife and I were looking for something to watch on television and, after our third round of channel-switching with the remote control, we landed on an episode of a show called Celebrity Wife Swap. I am not a regular viewer of this show. The premise is pretty simple. Two male celebrities “switch” lives for a week, each moving in with the other’s family and treating their spouses as though they were their own. This particular episode featured Gilbert Gottfried along with Alan Thicke, the one-time talk show host, highly touted to unseat Johnny Carson as “late night king.” (Spoiler Alert: he did not succeed.) Later, Mr. Thicke found a career-saving home as one of America’s favorite TV sitcom dads.
In the episode, Thicke is taken to Gilbert’s modest Manhattan apartment. We watch as Thicke snoops around, trying to figure out who lives here and with whose wife he will spend the next seven days. He spots a figurine of Iago the parrot from Disney’s Aladdin and he sees a poster for the film Problem Child. He chuckles, smiles and announces that it must be Gilbert Gottfried. Meanwhile, Gilbert is allowed access to Alan Thicke’s home — a sprawling estate with huge, manicured lawns, a multicar garage and room after room of pretentious décor. After a few minutes, Gilbert — eyes squinting nearly shut, hand flailing in all directions — squawks in his unmistakable voices: “Oh, It’s that guy! That guy I never liked! Alan Thicke” The out-of-shot camera crew could not contain their laughter.
Gilbert was one of a kind. His brazen sense of humor will be missed. He was one funny guy.