Gilbert Gottfried, a comedian and film and television actor with a distinctly memorable voice, has died after a long illness, his family announced on Tuesday.
He was 67.
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness. 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,” his family wrote in a post on Twitter.
CNN has contacted Gottfried’s publicist for further comment.
He was known for his grating voice and blue comedy
Though audiences know him by his grating tone, it wasn’t yet his signature when he debuted as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” for one season from 1980 to 1981, one of a few seasons without Lorne Michaels at the helm. He mostly performed stand-up throughout the ’80s, regularly appearing on Howard Stern’s radio show.
Though he had a few movie and TV credits in the ’80s, including the hit sequel “Beverly Hills Cop 2,” Gottfried’s celebrity didn’t rise until the 1990s. Throughout the decade, he employed his signature scream-speak in parts in animated films like “Aladdin,” as the mouthy macaw Iago, as well as live-action comedies like “Problem Child,” in which he played a scheming adoption agency employee.
In the 2000s and 2010s, Gottfried appeared in voice roles on series like “Family Guy” and as a contestant or “talking head” on reality series, including “Celebrity Wife Swap.” (He swapped wives with the late Alan Thicke.)
In his stand-up comedy, though, Gottfried’s style was filthy and delivered at a high decibel (perhaps you’ve heard him tell the famously blue “Aristocrats” joke). He also broached extremely sensitive topics head on, recalling in a 2012 opinion piece for CNN about a 9/11 joke he made during a roast of Hugh Hefner in Manhattan just days after the attacks (his audience didn’t appreciate it).
In the same piece, he defended tweets he posted about the 2011 tsunami in Japan as “silly” and “dumb,” though those tweets later led Aflac, for whom he provided the voice of its mascot duck, to fire him.
“I have always felt comedy and tragedy are roommates,” he wrote for CNN at the time.
Gottfried’s envelope-pushing, blue material was right at home during several Comedy Central roasts of celebrities such as former President Donald Trump in 2011.
Even when audiences weren’t seeing him on screen as often, he made his voice readily available. For nearly a decade, he’d interviewed comedy and entertainment figures on his podcast, “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.” A new episode was released earlier this month.
Numerous fellow comedians and former co-stars of Gottfried paid tribute on social media.
“Gilbert Gottfried was never not funny,” comedian Dane Cook wrote. “He was a lovely guy, always friendly & made many people happy.”
“Gilbert Gottfried made me laugh at times when laughter did not come easily. What a gift,” actor Jason Alexander wrote in a tweet.
“Nobody was funnier than @RealGilbert on a roll,” writer and director Judd Apatow shared. “He could put you into convulsive hysterics. He was also the sweetest man. His podcast is a comedy treasure. What a terrible loss. “