Hailed as the “comedian’s comedian” Gilbert Gottfried is known for both his shrill delivery and vulgar humour, and his work in Disney films such as Aladdin. Building a career around the persona of being a squinty-eyed brash jerk, one of the biggest revelations in Neil Berkeley’s wonderful and hilarious documentary is how understated Gottfried’s life really is. Not one for the limelight, Gilbert presents Gottfried as a humble, awkward, and surprisingly caring husband and father.
Notoriously cheap, Gottfried still takes greyhound buses when on tour, Gilbert is far from a rag to riches tale. At times Berkeley’s film plays like both a love story and a story of an artist whose family bonds helped to bring out the performer within him.
Despite his uneasiness in talking about his marriage to Dara or his tight bond with his sister, it is in these relationships where we get greater insight into how Gottfried managed to overcome several controversies, including a couple of ill-timed tsunami jokes, that nearly killed his career.
Of course, Gottfried’s gift for telling jokes never waivered. He is one of the few comedians who can tell the same joke over the course of 30 years and still have it land every time. His quick wit really shines in the film as his brand of humor gets even comedy legends cracking up.
Featuring the likes of Jay Leno, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Burr, Lewis Black, Whoopi Goldberg, Patton Oswald and others singing his praise, it easy to understand why Gilbert Gottfried’s unconventional career has thrived for so long. His stage persona may be crude, but underneath the façade is a humble man who believes laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Gilbert plays Hot Docs on:
Monday, May 1, 9:30 PM, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Tuesday, May 2, 12:45 PM, Hart House
Sunday, May 7, 9:00 PM, Hart House.