Gilbert Gottfried, comedian and actor with one of Hollywood’s most distinct voices, has died at 67 years old. The news was announced on his official social media page with a statement from his family that reads:
We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness. In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor.
Gottfried was a rare comedian who managed to make a career telling some of the most memorable dirty jokes while also having a prolific run in some of the biggest family-friendly films and TV shows.
Born in Brooklyn in 1955, Gottfried began doing standup at 15 years old in New York City. After years of being known locally for his talents, Saturday Night Live producers took notice of him, and hired him as a cast member. He appeared in the sixth season for twelve episodes. At the time, he didn’t use his distinct, shrill voice, and though SNL underutilized him, Gottfried got the last laugh.
His career onscreen post-SNL began with small roles on TV shows like Alan Thicke’s talk show Thicke Of The Night and The Cosby Show, and movies like Bad Medicine and Beverly Hills Cop II. He also regularly appeared on The Howard Stern Show—but years later was rumored to be banned for allegedly spitting on food that was for guests and employees.
After his film career took off, Gottfried began doing voiceover work, using the exaggerated, shrill voice he became known for. His biggest voice acting role was Iago, the villain Jafar’s parrot in Disney’s Aladdin (a role he reprised in many sequels and video games, including Kingdom Hearts). He also voiced Berkleley Beetle in Thumbelina and Dr. Bender and Wendel in the Nickelodeon series The Fairly OddParents.
But even while getting steady work in Hollywood, Gottfried never neglected his career as a comedian. He appeared on countless roasts, including the ones for Bob Saget, Joan Rivers, and Donald Trump. One of the biggest legacies he leaves behind in comedy is popularizing the time-honored comedy tradition of the “Aristocrats” joke (don’t click that if you’re in public). He famously told his version of it at the roast for Hugh Hefner, which occurred less than a month after 9/11.
Everyone was in low spirits, especially after Gottfried made a controversial joke about the attacks, but he managed to make the room laugh uncontrollably with his delivery of the famously filthy comedy routine. “The Aristocrats” became the subject of the 2005 documentary of the same name, explaining Gottfried’s impact on giving new life to the dark, incestuous joke.
Gottfried’s final role was as a voice actor on Adult Swim show Smiling Friends, where he voiced God. How appropriate.