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Gilbert Gottfried reflects

Talk dirty to me
By ROB TURBOVSKY  |  April 27, 2011

Backtalk Gottfried main
“I kind of think millions of years from now, when aliens land and dig up our civilization, they’re going to see all of these records of me and the tsunami, and they’ll figure, ‘Well, he must’ve caused it.’ ” 
Gilbert Gottfried's speaking voice is nothing like the outsized, grating scream with which he says things like, "The only way Hugh Hefner can get stiff is through rigor mortis." Gottfried uses that scream in filthy, unhinged performances on the Comedy Central Roasts and in The Aristocrats, where his telling of the title joke dared to explain why forcible group sex would involve so much blood. His shout-squawk was the voice of Aflac in its television ads — until he was fired for jokes he posted on Twitter following the tsunami in Japan. Before his appearance this Friday at the Harvard Coop to promote Rubber Balls and Liquor (St. Martin's), a new book of old-time dirty jokes and semi-autobiographical anecdotes, Gottfried talked to me about the tweets, the outrage, and what it's like being the media's whipping-boy-of-the-day.

Was it clear to you right away that the kind of book you would write would be a mix of jokes and very light autobiography?
I went through a few things. First, it was just going to be a book of dirty jokes. Or me explaining dirty jokes. Eventually, it became partly autobiographical and partly anything that'll make a blank page have writing on it.

Are you just not that interested in autobiography?
I always felt sort of embarrassed about people talking about themselves and writing biographical things and revealing things. A few people who read the book, who know me, said there would be some stories that they were kind of interested in that look like I'm really revealing stuff, and then I turn it into a joke, quite often an obscene joke, and they said, "It's kind of like talking to you in person." I thought this was quite an accomplishment. I didn't consciously mean to do it that way, but I'm glad.

When you were coming up in stand-up, did you like comics who did reveal a lot of themselves, like Richard Pryor?
Yeah, but this is another thing I think of, because you mentioned Pryor. Pryor, as much as I did admire him, it also really fascinated me that he became a name that if you could not quote one syllable that Pryor had ever said, if you weren't familiar even vaguely with him, you knew, if someone said to you, "Who do you most admire and who influenced you the most?" that you're supposed to say Pryor. Particularly among black comics, they have to say Pryor. They may have grown up watching Hee-Haw, but that doesn't sound as hip. Then, there are these other comics that you know you're supposed to hate. You're supposed to say something bad about Gallagher. So, to be safe, you go, "Oh, I hate Gallagher, and I love anything Richard Pryor."

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