On September 14th, 2017 a friend and I strolled down the street to Yuk-Yuks to see the wonderfully funny Gilbert Gottfried (1955-2022). And while I can say unequivocally that he was indeed wonderfully funny at this show, I actually recall his act from the first time I saw him – two years previously at the same venue – much more vividly.
But the part about this show that will stay with me forever happened right after it was finished. André and I had been sitting in the corner booth way off to stage left and as we sat there finishing up our beers after the show Gilbert himself shuffled out of the backstage area (read: kitchen) with a cardboard box full of books and asked if he could squeeze in beside us.
We made room for him while he set up a stack of his recent book and pulled out a Sharpie. Clearly the storied comedian – veteran of more than fifty films – travels alone. I had been surprised that he was booked into such a small basement club (twice) instead of a larger, more prestigious theatre, and here was he shilling his own merch. What a drag.
And so the masses lined up for a handshake and a chance to tell their little tales while Gilbert smiled painfully and tried to conceal his eternal hope that someone would actually buy a copy of his book (and his hatred for mankind in general, I’m sure).
Believe me, being a small-time musician and a medium-time band manager gave me tons of practise at exactly what Gottfried was doing, but c’mon, the dude is a legend! “My question is…one time I was camping with my friends and someone started telling your joke, you know, the one about…” “Hey Gilbert, my question is: my daughter does the funniest impression of you and you have to see it. I have a video of it right here…” Gosh, it was so painful to watch; everyone, and I mean everyone started the same way: “My question is…” and then they told a story instead of asking a question.
And almost everyone either a) told Gilbert one of his own jokes – poorly – or (more frequently) b) imitated one of his characters, usually the parrot from Aladdin.
André and I ordered another round and watched the aftershow until the last person had performed his little piece for the weary comedian.
Then I swigged the last of my beer, bought a copy of his book and didn’t tell him a thing. He looked like he needed a break. I still haven’t read it.