On March 22nd, 2015 I saw Gilbert Gottfried (1955-2022) at Ottawa’s Yuk Yuk’s. The ticket was a gift from m’lady; for my birthday she gave me a list of upcoming shows and offered to buy us a pair of tickets to the event of my choice. I was shocked that a comedian as notable as Gilbert Gottfried would be performing at the small Elgin Street basement venue just a kilometre or so from our house so my choice was easy.
We arrived well before showtime and selected a table near the back – sitting too close to the stage at a comedy club can be dangerous. We sipped cocktails as a series of opening acts mounted the stage and took their turn in front of a notoriously conservative Ottawa crowd. A couple of the comedians were quite good but the duo that immediately preceded Gilbert was embarrassingly bad. There’s nothing worse than watching a comedy act bomb (except being the comedy act during said bombing I suppose); with every flat delivery the air in the room gets thicker while every cough and occasional quiet chuckle magnifies the discomfort of everyone involved. And of course there’s the enforced perseverance of the comedians as they are forced to remain on stage while they endure the world’s slowest clock as it counts down the eternal seconds until their time is up – it just makes you squirm in your seat.
And then Gilbert Gottfried came out and hit it out of the park. He walked out from the door just behind our table, picked up the microphone and instantly had the whole room at his bidding. He squinted and screamed and had us enthralled with every story of the woe that is life.
He started off with a spiel on being invited to parties only to discover that no food was being offered.
“Are you going to eat before the party?” my wife asks me.
“Of course not,” I tell her. “There is sure to be food at the party,”
“Will there be music?” she asks me.
“No,” I tell her. “There will be so much food there won’t be enough space in the room for sound molecules to vibrate.”
And then you get there and they offer you half a cracker with something on top of it that they scraped out of the cat dish.
I guess you had to be there, but at one point I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breath. I literally thought I would have to step outside. I was gasping for oxygen, doubling over in my seat and still he kept pummelling us with jokes. I seriously thought I was in real danger for a minute or two.
It’s amazing to watch a guy manipulate the exact same words we all use in such a way as to captivate and entertain a crowd for seventy non-stop minutes, and that’s exactly what Gilbert Gottfried did in that little downstairs club on Elgin Street. Just one man, a microphone, and an utterly unique way of describing snippets of the world. And all this entertainment was just a short stroll down the street.
I’m surprised I don’t go more often.