Gilbert Gottfried, the gleefully crude comic who managed to become one of the most iconic, unlikely voices of children’s animation, has died at the age of 67, Vulture has confirmed. According to his publicist, Gottfried died of recurrent ventricular tachycardia resulting from myotonic dystrophy type 2 on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 12. “We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness,” Gottfried’s family wrote in a statement posted to the comedian’s Twitter account. “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.”
Born in Brooklyn in 1955, Gottfried began performing stand-up in New York City comedy clubs as a teenager and joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for a short stint in the show’s Lorne Michaels–less sixth season in 1980. While underused on the show, Gottfried continued to build his reputation as a stand-up and rose to prominence as a fixture on Letterman in the 1980s. After playing accountant Sidney Bernstein opposite his former SNL castmate Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop II, Gottfried enjoyed numerous supporting roles in film and TV throughout his career. Despite his reputation for dirty-as-possible humor — his version of “The Aristocrats” is the climax of the joke’s eponymous 2005 documentary — in the 1990s, Gottfried channeled his distinctive squawking delivery to voice the parrot Iago in Disney’s classic Aladdin. He would continue to voice the parrot throughout the film’s many sequels and spinoff series.
Never one to be censored, Gottfried attracted controversy throughout his career. In a Friar’s Club roast of Hugh Hefner performed mere days after the September 11 attacks, Gottfried was one of the first high-profile comedians to make a 9/11 joke. In an interview for Vulture’s Good One podcast in 2019, Gottfried reflected on why he told it. “Maybe I’m self-destructive, maybe I’m just plain stupid. But if someone tells me don’t do something, then I want to do it,” he said. “I’ve always said tragedy and comedy are roommates. Wherever tragedy’s around, comedy’s a few feet behind them sticking his tongue out and making obscene gestures. When you go to a funeral, the guy at the podium will say embarrassing stories about the guy in the box, and people will laugh. People lean over to the person sitting next to them with a smirk on their face, and the other person will hold their hands over their face like, Oh, I shouldn’t be laughing at this.”
Gottfried is survived by his wife, Dara; their two children; his sister; and a nephew.