I am talking to Gilbert Gottfried, and he is not yelling.
Before phoning Gottfried at his New York home, I had braced myself for an exchange modeled after his shrill, comedy-roast attacks. Or perhaps something akin to attempting an interview with the Aflac insurance duck.
Instead, the stand-up comedian communicates slowly, thoughtfully. He’s jovial. Gottfried lets out a methodical, deep guffaw when I suggest that he come up with a dirty potato joke for his trip to Boise (Dec. 11-12, Liquid Laughs. Details, 25.)
“I don’t usually customize,” Gottfried demurs.
Come on, Gil. Forget that you were a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and appeared on “The Cosby Show.” Forget that you were the voice of that loudmouth parrot in Disney’s hit 1992 movie “Aladdin.” Forget that you meticulously recited the filthiest, most disgusting joke in the history of man during a roast of Hugh Hefner — a painfully humorous moment documented in the 2005 film “The Aristocrats.”
Deliver a quality potato joke during your Idaho visit, and your comedy immortality will be guaranteed. It doesn’t even have to be dirty.
“I mean, I might go, ‘What do numbers like to eat? Math potatoes,” Gottfried says.
“See?” Gottfried says, laughing loudly.
Better stop, buddy. I’ll print this stuff. There won’t be anybody at your shows when you get here.
“Yes! I know!” Gilbert exclaims gleefully.
“Oh, here’s a joke,” he says. “What do you call a stoned” — he pauses for a split second — “a stoned yam? A pot potato!”
“What do you call a baby potato?” Gottfried continues. “A small fry.”
Stop. Please. I am not sure if I am laughing or crying.
“I think I might just do a complete set of potato jokes,” Gottfried snickers.
No. No. Liquid Laughs’ owners are gonna freakin’ kill me. My untimely demise will be another horrible tragedy that Gottfried can make light of, I inform him.
This makes him laugh more.
Remember 2011, when Gottfried was fired as the voice of the Aflac duck after he tweeted jokes about the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan? (And notice how his last name sort of spells “Got-fired”?)
Gottfried quickly apologized. But he still finds humor in his high-profile job termination.
“What always makes me laugh,” Gottfried confesses, “is when people use the term ‘too soon.’ Because, to me, you can do jokes now about the Titanic and the Lincoln assassination, and I feel like, oh, that makes you a good person because it’s years later? So that makes it good taste? It seems very hypocritical.”
Right or wrong, that’s human nature. Either way, Gottfried isn’t about to change his own nature. Not at 60 years old. He doesn’t fret much about crossing lines. Hit YouTube and check out Gottfried’s brutally vulgar, absolutely hilarious performance on 2009’s “Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers.” Or notice how, in “The Aristocrats,” he waves his hand nonchalantly during his longwinded, bestiality-and-incest-packed bit and admits, “They might have to clean this up for TV.”
Paid advertisements in Scene for Gottfried’s Boise shows have pointed out that his act is rated R. Apparently for Idahoans assuming he would do nothing but squawk “Aflac!” all night.
“It’s funny,” Gottried says. “When they say rated R, then I get worried about the stuff I do that’s not completely filthy. I remember like this older couple came up to me (after a show) and said, ‘Oh, we were expecting it to be much dirtier.’ I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m slipping.’ ”
Something tells me that comedygoers at Liquid will discover this isn’t the case.
Which raises the question: Why is Gottfried coming? Shouldn’t he be voicing a talking horse on “Family Guy” or something? Why stand-up in Boise?
“Whenever someone threatens me with a check,” Gottfried says, chuckling loudly, “I always bow down.”
▪ Slayer, Testament and Carcass? On St. Patrick’s Day at the Revolution Center in Garden City? Wow. These thrash-metal bands are getting older, but it’s the fans who are going to need hearing aids afterward.
▪ Boise is ready to “Come on down!” to the Morrison Center on Jan. 27. “The Price is Right Live,” a touring version of the long-running TV game show, has sold out in advance.
This frightens me.
▪ Treefort Music Fest has announced its first wave of bands for next year’s event March 23-27 in Downtown Boise. The highlight? Funk and soul singer Charles Bradley. Check out the other 60-plus acts revealed at Treefortmusicfest.com.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman