Gilbert Gottfried was only 15 when he performed his first stand-up open mic in New York. Forty-seven years later, the now firmly established comedian will bring his distinctive voice to Suffolk Theater in Riverhead on Friday, March 24. Gottfried took some time before the start of his new tour to talk about his career, the time he was fired by Donald Trump and his podcast, Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast!
After 47 years, do you have a favorite role?
The first movie that got me noticed was my scene in Beverly Hills Cop II with the traffic tickets, with me and Eddie Murphy. I liked that because that was a totally ad-libbed scene. Now when it comes on TV I look at myself and say, “Who’s that guy?”
Is there an episode of your podcast you’d particularly recommend?
I don’t know how many people remember this guy. Growing up there used to be a kiddie show called Wonderama and the host was Sonny Fox. He’s in his 90s now. I was expecting one of those Kids Say the Darndest Things interviews, which I thought would have been fine. And it turns out he was a prisoner of war during World War II and he experienced—him and his whole troop—being in a train car held prisoner, then he spoke about the blacklist. He was a surprising one. And some of them are just funny and interesting. Dick Van Dyke was a lot of fun.
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Can you talk about being fired by Donald Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice?”
[Laughs] Yes. It’s one of the reality shows that makes me laugh because the first day you’re there the most important thing to all the people on it is their charity. Then they get lost in the challenge of the show and I would watch them and think, “Do you really think that if you sell the most cupcakes in this challenge that you’re going to be running Trump Enterprises?” But I don’t know much about him. The few times I’ve run into him during Celebrity Apprentice or afterwards at publicity things, I found him to be a perfectly okay guy. When he got to be president I thought, “I’ll bet he himself is more surprised than anybody.”
Have you ever been out to the East End of Long Island before?
My life is kind of like those guys in the movie where the lead character has amnesia. And all of a sudden, I’ll pick up a matchbook or something and get a flashback. There have been entire states that I swore I’ve never been to, and then I get to the club and I see that I’ve signed the wall. And then I go, “Okay, I’ve been here.”
Do you have any advice for an aspiring stand-up comic?
I think back on when I was starting and I always attribute it to stupidity. Stupidity made me think I should go into show business and I’d actually have a chance at it. Stupidity kept me going because I didn’t think in terms of the odds against anybody making it. And you see a disappointed look on people’s faces when they ask and I tell them the answer which is, keep going to comedy clubs that will put you on, keep your fingers crossed and keep doing it. And I see that disappointed look. It’s like when people ask you how to lose weight. They don’t want to hear “Eat less cake and ice cream and exercise.” They want to hear, “There’s a new way where you eat all the ice cream you want, you sit around and watch TV and lose the weight.” What scares me now—because when you get older you get more realistic—I couldn’t have started doing comedy or anything in show biz now because [I’d] look at the odds. That’s something I think about.
Gilbert Gottfried performs at Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street, Riverhead on Friday, March 24 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for drinks and dinner. Tickets $49 & $60 at suffolktheater.com, 631-727-4343