Gilbert Gottfried dies at 67

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried has died “after a long illness,” his family said Tuesday.

He was 67.

“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness,” the family said in a message posted to Mr. Gottfried’s official Twitter account.

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A comic with a distinctive voice and a flair for crude humor, Mr. Gottfried burst onto the public scene with his appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” followed by more than 30 years of stand-up comedy specials, TV and movies, and the occasional public controversy.

“Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor,” the family wrote.

Tributes began pouring in from other comedians on social media Tuesday.

Gilbert Gottfried made me laugh at times when laughter did not come easily. What a gift. I did not know him well but I loved what he shared with me. My best wishes and sympathy to his family. #ripGilbertGottfried,” wrote comedian Jason Alexander.


The family did not specify the illness and he had made no previous public announcement of major health issues. He is survived by his wife Dara Kravitz and their two children, daughter Lily and son Max.

Mr. Gottfried, whose dramatic roles included the parrot Iago in Disney’s “Alladin” series, used a distinct voice in his comic persona — loud, grating almost-squawk-like — that was both not his natural voice and also courted dislike.

“You don’t just laugh at the punchline when Gilbert Gottfried tells a joke. You laugh at the setup. You laugh at his comments about the joke. You even laugh at the segues between his jokes,” critic Danny Gallagher once wrote at the Dallas Observer.

That penchant for risk-taking often backfired, including at an Emmy Awards show in which he made a series of masturbation jokes in reference to the then-recent Pee-Wee Herman arrest, and was subsequently blackballed.

Most famously, at a Friars Club roast of Hugh Hefner in October 2001, he made one of the first publicly known Sept. 11 jokes — he said he couldn’t get a direct flight because “hey have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

The audience began hissing at him — Mr. Gottfried called the reaction “bigger than anybody has ever lost an audience” — and so to recover, Mr. Gottfried won back the audience with one of the most elaborate (and filthiest) renditions of the famed Aristocrats joke, clips of which were used in the 2005 film “The Aristocrats.”

One Twitter user joined the social media wake by saying Mr. Gottfried “taught us that having the most annoying voice in the world could be really funny. so in a way he is the father of twitch streaming as a whole.”

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