like the turning of leaves or the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano.
Periodically, somebody in the outrage business gets apoplectic over something
Gilbert Gottfried said. Normally, the joke is on them, but when admittedly
tasteless tsunami jokes cost the comedian his lucrative Aflac commercial gig,
many assumed the speech police had finally claimed his scalp. Yet, the
manically nebbish stand-up is still standing. Viewers get a peek behind his outrageous
facade in Neil Berkeley’s documentary profile Gilbert, which screens during
the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
was always a comic’s comic in part because of his gleeful willingness to skewer
sacred cows. His career kicked into high gear after his characteristically
frenzied cameo in Beverly Hills Cop 2,
but probably his biggest paydays were as the voice of the parrot in Aladdin and the Aflac duck. Berkeley
duly covers Gottfried career high/low lights, such as his notorious appearance
at the Hugh Hefner roast, which started with poorly received 9-11 jokes and
ended with essentially the public debut of the filthy-as-the-day-is-long “Aristocrats”
joke that has always been reserved for private one-upmanship among fellow
very same Gottfried also happens to be married to a woman who seems to be
emotionally healthy and well-adjusted. Even Gottfried isn’t sure how that
worked. Berkeley worms his way into their private lives pretty deeply, giving
us some insight into their relationship. Clearly, Gottfried is a guarded person
by nature, but he opens up—probably more than he expected. We also learn how close
he was to his mother and his sisters. Granted, Gilbert is nowhere as revealing as Weiner—and thank goodness for that—but it humanizes the eccentric
comedian to a shocking extent.
many ways, Gilbert compares with Neil
Barsky’s thoroughly entertaining Ed Koch documentary, aptly titled Koch. Both
were very private individuals, yet they rather unrepentantly ignited public
controversies with their outspokenness. However, Berkeley hardly explores the
free speech implications of the Gilbert Gottfried experience, beyond some
hat-tips to Lenny Bruce. For that kind of analysis, check out Ted Balaker’s
funny and frightening Can We Take a Joke?,
featuring the post-Aflac Gottfried.
The portrait of Gottfried that emerges through
Berkeley’s lens is quite complex, but fans need not worry. He is still happy to
meet their expectations for crudeness and crassness. Funny yet weirdly
endearing, Gilbert is highly
recommended for everyone except Puritanical Social Justice Warriors when it
screens again tonight (4/21), Tuesday (4/25), and next Friday (4/28), as part
of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Labels: Documentary, Gilbert Gottfried, Tribeca '17