You don’t know Gilbert Gottfried. You think you do, but you don’t. He’s been called the ‘comic’s comic,” and has been a staple of TV and film for years. His signature voice and crinked eyes have been imitated by thousands. But the new documentary “Gilbert, A Gilbert Gottfried Story” shows an entirely different side of the comedian who’s been entertaining audiences for four decades.
“It was uncomfortable from beginning to end,” cracked Gottfried, who spoke to IndieWire’s Turn It On podcast (along with filmmaker Neil Berkeley) about making the documentary, fame, and the state of comedy. Listen below!
Berkeley’s “Gilbert,” which premieres Dec. 29 on Hulu, came out of a desire by Gilbert’s wife Dara to showcase an unexpected side to the iconic comedian. The film peeks behind the larger-than-life persona at a more personal story about growing up in Brooklyn and becoming a husband and father late in life. It’s a vulnerable and loving tribute to the comedian, featuring interviews with Richard Belzer, Bill Burr, Dick Van Dyke, Whoopi Goldberg, Arsenio Hall, Penn Jilette, Jay Leno, Howie Mandel and Jeff Ross.
Gottfried admitted he was apprehensive about showing too much of his personal life: “You’re used to the Wizard of Oz, he’s all-powerful, and then he’s just this schmuck behind the curtain!”
But Berkeley set out to tell the tale of a comic who has unassumingly worked hard for more than 40 years, and who is now finding new happiness with his family. Gottfried is eccentric, as he saves money by taking the Mega Bus to gigs and saving every last hotel soap. He even tells of how he scored free socks and flashlights from fire stations in New York after 9/11. But it’s the tale of Gottfried’s upbringing, and how that now informs his own family, that may be the most endearing.
“Dara wanted people to see the real Gilbert,” Berkeley said.
The film also gave Gottfried a chance to pay tribute to his sister Arlene, a photographer who passed away after filming. And he’s shown exhibiting sharp interview skills as the host of his popular “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.”
Berkeley shot more than 400 hours of Gottfried, and traveled with him to 15 different cities, plus across the borders to Canada and Mexico. Gottfried’s watched the film several times, but is still his own biggest critic.
“Seeing yourself and hearing yourself for the first time, oh my god, do I really look like that or sound like that?” he said. “There are parts that my body just tenses up. I watch myself walk in the movie — do I really walk like Redd Foxx in ‘Sanford and Son’?”
Here’s a promo for “Gilbert,” which is available starting Dec. 29 on Hulu.
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.