Ten Minutes with Gilbert Gottfried
The legendary comedian talks about his life and comedy
Photo by Eric Korenman
Gilbert Gottfried is on the road year-round doing standup, or in New York City recording his weekly podcast. Come summer and into the fall, he spends time with his family at their place on Stockbridge Bowl. While some people go to a museum, watch a play, enjoy Tanglewood, hit the trails, or kayak, Gottfried does it somewhat differently in the Berkshires. From inside his home, he enjoys nature and TV. One of the few outings he does make is to the Dollar Store, or to an ice cream shop. And his wife, Dara, drives him everywhere.
Can you describe your schedule?
Gilbert: It is kind of crazy, and yet other comics go on the road 365 days of the year. At least every so often, I get to go home.
When you come to the Berkshires, do you go out?
Gilbert: I enjoy nature when I’m inside looking out [laughs]. It’s like the last time I was in the Berkshires, I was inside and there was a thunderstorm, so I sat inside watching the rain come down and listening to the thunder and thought, yeah, this is where I like to enjoy nature. My adventure is going to the Dollar Stores in the area. I like saving a dime anytime I can.
Dara: What about all of the ice cream we buy every night? He’s like a two-year-old. That’s his treat, ice cream, and the Dollar Store in Great Barrington and in Pittsfield by HomeGoods and TJ Maxx. I say, hey, let’s go to museum. Let’s go to MASS MoCA. He says, No, let’s just go to the Dollar Store. Let’s go to the Mount. No, let’s go to the Dollar Store.
Do people stop you when you’re out?
Gilbert: When I walk out and there is a group of people, the first thing that comes to my mind is, Oh no, they are all going to stop me they’re all going to want to take my picture. They’re all going to want to talk to me. And if I walk by and they don’t do that, I go, Oh my God, my career is over. Either way, I can’t be happy.
You’ve been described as a comedian’s comedian. What does that mean?
Gilbert: I am a comedian’s comedian because the audience hates me.
Tell me about “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast!” Would you like to do one here?
Dara: If we can figure out a weekend that we could get away, we would love to do it here and with whichever guest is appropriate. The podcast focuses on classic Hollywood .... I’ve booked 223 guests.
What do you enjoy doing more: standup or your podcasts?
Gilbert: The podcast is a surprise to me because I didn’t think I would want anything to do with it at first. It is enjoyable. When I do live appearances people are coming up to me all the time afterwards saying they listen to the podcast.
Would you describe yourself as a film buff?
Gilbert: Oh, yeah. One of the most fun things I’ve done was sit in with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies. That, to me, was the ideal job.
What was your best interview?
Gilbert: Dick Van Dyke was one. I sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with him.
Dara: What about when you made Bob Costas laugh so hard that he got on all fours?
Gilbert: I told him some long, stretched-out dirty joke. Just disgusting and gross. And Bob Costas fell underneath the table and started crawling around the room on all fours.
What was the joke?
Gilbert: Oh, God, no way I can clean it up.
Gilbert: We found this child actress from the ’40’s named Janet Ann Gallow, and to me, that was the biggest thrill because she worked with Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney in Ghost of Frankenstein. When they were in full makeup, in their monster makeup, they would play hide-go-seek with her. Now that is the childhood I wish I had. Hide-go-seek with Frankenstein and Igor.
Any regrets telling a joke?
Gilbert: The only times I regret a joke is if I tell a joke that is not funny. If the joke gets a laugh and gets me in trouble, I will always figure I got a laugh and that is really what my business is.
Do you ever feel like you crossed the line?
Gilbert: A lot of times. There is this line that George Carlin said that is the duty of a comedian to find out where the line is drawn and deliberately cross over it.
Do you ride the bus?
Gilbert: Yeah, I ride the bus and the train in the city to gigs.
Dara: He was supposed to get off in Stockbridge one time and I was waiting for him. You didn’t know where you were, you didn’t tell the bus driver to stop, so I watched the bus drive right past me.
How often do you get out of NYC?
Dara: My parents bought a house here 15 years ago. We rented for five years and bought a house three years ago. Our kids are nine and 11 years old now, and it’s like home to them. They learned to ride their bikes and swim here. They experience things that people don’t experience in the city. They have freedom.
Gilbert: For me, it is like walking through Jurassic Park. If I go out there, I will probably get attacked by a bear. I haven’t seen a bear yet, but someone in the area told us about a bear that broke into their house and the freezer was open and ate all their ice cream. That is a bear I could hang out with all day.