Gilbert Gottfried Was Known For Being Loud And Raunchy, But He Was Also Very Sweet And Kind

It's somewhat common for comedians to have differences between their onstage persona and their real personalities, but few had differences as vast as Gilbert Gottfried's. The actor and comedian was best known for his loud, growling way of talking and his love of vulgarity. Much of Gottfried's humor was based on shocking people, and he would say just about anything to get a laugh, even especially if it was rude, crude, or lewd. Despite being as obnoxious as humanly possible onstage, he was beloved in the comedy world as a rather shy, sweet man who would rather ride the bus than take a private jet. His loudness and intensely offensive jokes were all part of the schtick, a character he built around himself as a way to make people laugh. 

The personal dichotomy of Gilbert Gottfried is nothing short of incredible. In his private life, he was a soft-spoken husband and father of two, but in his public life, he was the voice of Iago the parrot in Disney's "Aladdin," one of the most recognizable voices in all of pop culture, and the man behind what is potentially the dirtiest version of "The Aristocrats" joke ever told. While many will honor his passing by replaying some of his favorite roast routines or stand-up bits, they should also remember the man behind it all — a man who was much more complex than his public persona let on.

The softer side of one of comedy's most boisterous

The best way to truly understand the controversial but caring comedian is to check out the 2017 documentary "Gilbert," directed by Neil Berkeley ("Harmontown"). The documentary gives unprecedented access to Gottfried and his family, including his wife and two children. It doesn't shy away from the fact that sometimes his boundary-pushing style of comedy went too far, and the film helps paint a more complete portrait of the man who made us all laugh so much. It's difficult for some to reconcile the two sides of Gottfried, who made the kinds of jokes that aren't repeatable except in very specific company, but he was ultimately just trying to make people laugh, not hurt anyone. Comedy is hard. Provocative comedy can be even harder, because in order to test the limits, sometimes you have to overstep so the next generation knows what not to do. Gottfried took those risks and became especially beloved among other comedians as someone who could always bring the room to a riotous uproar. Laughter is medicine, after all, and his was some of the strongest. 

When he wasn't making people gasp with jokes that obliterated the boundaries of good taste, Gottfried still spent his time trying to make people happy. In the 2016 documentary "Life, Animated," he surprises one very special fan, Owen Suskind, by dropping in and re-enacting scenes from "Aladdin." Suskind has autism and became non-verbal as a child, but his parents were able to inspire him to communicate through Disney movies. One of his favorites was "Aladdin," and he lit up every time he heard Gottfried as Iago, the villainous parrot. In the clip, Gottfried and Suskind share a lovely moment, surrounded by other fans with autism who appreciate the uniquely-voiced performer. 

We, as humans, are complicated, messy creatures. Gottfried was as messy as could be on stage in a way that was almost cathartic to watch and laugh at. He said the worst things possible and gave us permission to laugh at all of the awful in the world, but he did it out of a kind of love for all of the other messy, complicated creatures out there. Rest in peace, you filthy, hilarious man. You will be sorely missed.