During his almost 40-year career, Gilbert Gottfried has done standup, SNL, sitcoms, movies, roasts, a book, and voiceovers. Just when we’d thought we’d heard everything we could from the rambunctiously loud comedian, he added another role to his list: podcast host. Gottfried and his co-host, Frank Santopadre, release interviews and mini-episodes of Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast! each week, and they’ll also be recording it live later this week at the NYC Podfest. Although he’s known for a brazen and often crude sense of humor, Gottfried’s podcast features him in a different light: a cinephile with movie-star idols, just like us – but with a better laugh.
What would you ask yourself as a guest of your own podcast?
Oh, jeez. What made you think you could go into comedy? Whatever made you think you’d have a successful career?
And how would you answer that?
I’ve always said this, I think the younger you are, the more unrealistic you are, or irrational. So, being young I thought, ‘Hey, I’ll have a career in show business, and I’ll be someone who can go up on stage and people will laugh, and I’ll be in movies.’ Nowadays, if I were to think about it, when people say to me like, “I’m starting out,” or “I’m a struggling actor or comic,” I think, “What are you, nuts?”
The chances are so much against you, but back then, I wasn’t thinking that way. The common sense comes later on. Now, I can understand people digging through the garbage, collecting soda cans to turn them in for five cents each – that kind of makes sense to me, but a career in show business doesn’t.
On your podcast, you feature a lot of old-timers on the show, you had Dick Van Dyke, Peter Marshall, Dick Cavett. A lot of men named Dick.
Trust me, I have to avoid all the obvious puns. Dick Van Dyke himself said he’s familiar with being called “Penis Van Lesbian.”
What is the purpose of having these old-Hollywood people who you don’t really hear about in media today on your show?
I grew up watching these people, and my co-host, Frank Santopadre, is also one of those people I know who’s a freak for old movies and TV shows. I also had two people from this old show called F Troop, with Larry Storch and Ken Berry, who were way up there.
Years ago, there used to be shows like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Murder She Wrote, where you’d see these actors and actresses who you thought were dead, and they’d pop up on these guest spots. You’d look at them and go, ‘Oh, yeah, they can still do the job.’
So you want to offer that to audiences today?
Oh yeah, and I’m so surprised that it is successful. I thought, they’re gonna be listening to these people who they don’t know and we’ll be talking about other names they don’t know, but then people tell me, “No I don’t know who you were talking to, but I was looking it up” and it becomes like a fun homework assignment.
Are you generally a nostalgic person?
Oh yeah. Growing up, the greatest film school in the country was your living room. The TV, when I was a kid, had all the old movies popping up so you’d see newer people on the variety shows, and then all these old movies. You got a taste of everything.
What do you like about podcasts?
It’s a weird thing with the podcast, too, like, I still don’t understand it. I’ll be talking to like an older actor and they’ll ask, “Well what exactly is a podcast?” I think, Oh God, I don’t know myself. So I basically say, it’s a radio show on your computer.
I also kind of felt like, you know, I remember a few years ago, people said, “Oh you should have a blog,” so I started keeping a blog for a little while but then I thought, “this blog is no better than any two-year-old kid’s could be.” I kind of feel like that with podcasts now, like, I think everyone on the planet has a podcast.
True. I don’t, but I’m calling you from Mars.
The thing is, when I perform on stage, it’s very easy to fall into bits and jokes you’ve done a million times before, and you find yourself going into autopilot. With the podcast, when you’re talking to someone like that, it changes, and you have to think a little bit more on your feet.
What makes you laugh the most?
God, I don’t know, I guess if I really thought about it, I’d stop finding it it funny. If you analyze comedy, if you analyze a joke, then the joke’s not funny anymore.
And because you told me not to ask why things are funny, why is the Aristocrat’s Joke funny?
That’s an odd one. The whole thing usually in a joke, the funny part is the punchline, and here it’s like, a long trick. It seems like a never-ending trick to get to the punchline which is actually pretty weak. I can’t figure that one out myself.
Do you like to shock people?
Yeah, I think it’s still fun. I remember Michael Richards got in trouble, and the owner of that club then sort of came out in public and said, “If any comics use that word in this club, they’re gonna be fined.” And I thought, instead of that, what he should’ve said was, “use any words you want, we’re not gonna censor the comics. If you come here, do it at your own risk, people might be offended, they might be shocked and disgusted.”
To me, it’s like, if you advertised a roller coaster and you said, “Well it goes very slow, and it doesn’t make any sudden turns or drops or go to high up in the air.” That’s not what people want when they go on a roller coaster.
What do you think of comedy and political correctness?
I remember George Carlin said a line that was like, “it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn, and deliberately step over it.”
What is your advice for aspiring comedians?
Don’t do it, and try to get some cans. But if you have to, it’s like the most lame advice I can give: you know, go up any chance you can, you go up onstage, and you keep doing it over and over again.
If anyone asks me if I can give them advice, that’s the advice I give them. I kind of feel like they’re kind of disappointed by that, like they want a secret. It’s sort of like when people ask how to lose weight, and actually it’s like, well there’s no secret – you eat less, and you exercise. Nobody really wants that answer. They want to know: is there some way that I can eat ice cream and watch TV and lose weight?
What are your future plans?
I’m doing a lot of light performing. Basically, I’m one of those people, I still get called in for voiceovers or some acting parts pop up. I always say, most people answer the phone and say ‘Hello,’ I answer the phone and say ‘I’ll take it.’
I’ll get depressed constantly, and frustrated, thinking ‘Oh God, I’m a terrible failure,’ and then I’ll start to look back on the millions of the other performers who were at clubs the same years I was kicking around these non-paying clubs trying to get onstage. I would see them everyday for years at these clubs, and now, I don’t remember their names or what they look like. Then it reminds me, ‘Oh, wait a second, I am successful.’