April 12, 2022- Gilbert Gottfried died today, at age 67. His was a classic New York voice, brash and direct, thinly masking a huge heart that cared for many of the same people he was “trashing”. My encounters with his work were relatively few: There was Iago the Parrot, in the animated “Aladdin” movies of the 1990s; an occasional Groucho Marx or Jerry Seinfeld imitation, on a talk show seen in a doctor’s office waiting room and there were his appearances on various celebrity roasts-each mirroring the work of his role model and mentor: Don Rickles (who he also would tear apart, on certain routines). The word is, Gilbert could take it as well as dish it out, in the Noo Yawk style. There is no one left who is quite like him, on the stage of comedy. He traded in political “incorrectness”, to remind us all that no one is perfect.
I have personally evolved into maintaining a modicum of “political correctness”, primarily out of common courtesy. Certain words, especially racial or gender epithets, have never been in my repertoire; others, when I felt forced by peers, in young adulthood, came chokingly out of my mouth-in private conversation. I felt sick afterwards, and those pejoratives were soon gone from my very consciousness. Then again, my sense of humour is dry, situational. I would not be one who could pack the house-or clear it, when deemed necessary. Gilbert Gottfried could do both.
For most of us, the ebb and flow of courtesy towards others is a balancing act-between offering the respect that human beings inherently deserve and the admonitions that are frequently needed. It helps to be generally nonjudgmental, as well as to have the moral compass that offers judgement when it serves a purpose.
Gilbert Gottfried lived by making that distinction.