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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gilbert Gottfried, New York Punk

When he's at his best, Gilbert Gottfried is as good as contemporary comedy gets. This article about him at The Lowbrow Reader (with that name and articles by people like Gottfried and Rick Moranis, it's definitely something I'll have to check out more often) is a great read:

In 1987, Gilbert Gottfried made his debut appearance on Howard Stern’s radio program. Although it went unspoken, the host and his guest had somewhat overlapping lives. Both men were in their early 30s and clinging to the fringes of show business. Both were Jewish nerds who had come of age as outsiders in rough patches of New York: Stern in a predominantly black area of Long Island; Gottfried in pre-chic Brooklyn and the East Village of burning tenements and open-air heroin bazaars. They found escape and salvation through the junky pop culture of monster movies, super heroes, rock & roll, and comedy. And while both performers’ acts had roots in the ’70s, their entry to comedy’s major leagues began at the dawn of the ’80s, when Stern paired with his invaluable on-air foil Robin Quivers and Gottfried started his short-lived—and little-remembered—tenure on Saturday Night Live...

The Howard Stern Show in its modern-day incarnation is deliberately paced and nearly intellectual in its majestic pursuit of idiocy. Whether involving showbiz royalty (Jay Z, Jerry Seinfeld) or side-show freaks (an oddly well-spoken man with a 132-pound scrotum), interviews unravel methodically—deep probes with a therapeutic air. Yet in its adolescence, before Stern had his in-built satellite audience or the mantle of celebrity, his show was hyperactive and tense, like New York City. The maiden Gottfried interview is particularly berserk. To hear it is to tumble into the pages of an old MAD magazine or the dinner table of Minnie Marx.

Although at the time of the appearance Gottfried seemed to be living with his mother, he was nonetheless a larger national star than Stern, who was still gaining a foothold in New York. As the comedian, who appears unfamiliar with the show, enters the room, the radio host confesses to nerves. Gottfried is “so wacky,” Stern notes, “I’m really wondering how this interview’s gonna go.” As a straight interview, it flops. Like many comedians, Gottfried seems unwilling—and possibly unable—to advance a conversation in the manner traditionally favored by human beings. Instead, he cracks wise at any available opening. At one point, Quivers attempts to lure the comic into discussing his life away from his mother’s television set. “Tell us what a person who has a life does,” Gottfried says. “You drink, you’re at an amusement park, and you puke. This is the fun life.”
The segment achieves its virtuosity near its midpoint, as Stern begins taking calls from listeners. Instinctively, the host and his guest turn on every dupe with the gall to phone them. In a surreal stretch reminiscent of a Marx Brothers routine, they place caller after caller on hold. (“You holding?” “Yep.” “Hold on!”) Finally, Stern lets a caller through...

 Read the rest HERE

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