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Gilbert Gottfried lives a double life. By day he's a popular voice-over actor for commercials and children's cartoons, by night he's a hilarious, foul-mouthed comedian. Since 2000 he's been the voice of the AFLAC duck, he's spent more than a decade as host of the USA Networks' Up All Night, and he makes frequent, infamous appearances on the Howard Stern show. Gilbert took a pause from his hectic multimedia schedule to plug his upcoming performance at Meadow Brook Music Hall with opener Bill Bushart, Detroit's own blue-comedy king.
Metro Times: Why are you on my TV every time I turn it on?
Gottfried: Um, I guess you did something bad in a previous life.
MT: You're everywhere, you're constantly working. You're ubiquitous.
Gottfried: Yeah, as soon as I figure out what ubiquitous means. I don't know whether to thank you or punch you.
MT: You're constantly working, always busy and you're often playing birds.
Gottfried: It's true. I was a parrot in Aladdin, I'm the AFLAC duck and I'm a bird on Cyberchase, the PBS cartoon.
MT: Pigeonholed, excuse the pun, as a bird man.
Gottfried: [Laughs] My act is for the birds. We go from "ubiquitous" right into puns.
MT: Yet you are still out there doing stand-up. Is that insanity or a passion?
Gottfried: I think both. I have a weird career. It's a tightrope between children's programming and hardcore porn.
MT: Are you ever afraid the corporate suits will be put off by the other stuff you do?
Gottfried: I know I've lost an account or two, but at this point I've built enough of a career. Thank god I've held on to the AFLAC account. I think one day they will wake up and go, "We can fire the actor and replace him with a real duck."
MT: But not a duck with your skill.
Gottfried: You'd be surprised.
MT: Did you enjoy the media attention from being in the movie The Aristocrats?
Gottfried: That was very odd. When they asked me to do it, I thought, "Well, this is a cute little idea for a movie." Penn Jillette was in charge of it and I didn't get anything I would consider special treatment, then when the movie came out I was given the lion's share of the press like they were singling me out.
MT: You were held up as a shining example of foulness, like, you were the most foul.
Gottfried: There's another bird pun.
MT: Is the comedy a chance to do what you want, is it freedom?
Gottfried: Deep down it just has to do with another check. At the end of the day it has only a little bit to do with art.
MT: Is there anything you would turn down?
Gottfried: By the looks of it, no.
MT: You don't seem to be losing popularity. You would think with the act you do, this loud, obnoxious character, people would be sick of it.
Gottfried: [Laughs] It's very odd that they can't get enough of my obnoxiousness, they keep eating it up.
MT: How much time do you spend writing new jokes?
Gottfried: I think the last thing I wrote was a great bit I did about Nixon. And that was when he was running with Eisenhower.
MT: You seem to have a gift for improv, like when you do roasts or is that cleverly staged?
Gottfried: It comes from not knowing what was going to happen next, and running with it.
MT: Would you want a regular gig like that?
Gottfried: I don't know. I hate the idea of waking up early every morning.
MT: So you like the comic's lifestyle?
Gottfried: I don't like either one, really. I think maybe I'll just become one of those guys that hangs around the studio like "Dan the dummy." Some idiot gets a nickname and then just builds a career out of it.
MT: Do you like doing the talking head stuff?
Gottfried: Oh, yeah, like the VH1 shows where it says "famous person" under your face? Those are fun. VH1 it's like if you really look at it, they have about five minutes of programming that they just keep running forever.
MT: Once you do I Love the '70s, it's on until 2070.
Gottfried: Yeah they replay those constantly.
MT: Have you thought about doing a reality show? Like Flavor of Gilbert?
Gottfried: I think Paris Hilton is looking for a new partner for her show. I did this one reality show thing just recently where they had me in an abandoned insane asylum. Allegedly there was this ghost some psychopath still roaming the halls, but I think he was afraid of me.
Saturday, Aug. 26, at Meadow Brook Music Hall, on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester; 248-377-0478 ext. 100.
Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.