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‘Gilbert’ (review)

Produced by David Heiman, Maggie Contreras
Written by Neil Berkeley, James Leche
Directed by Neil Berkeley
Featuring Gilbert Gottfried, Dara Gottfried,
Lily Gottfried, Max Gottfried, Karen Gottfried,
Jay Leno, Howie Mandel, Dick Van Dyke,
Alan Zweibel, Jim Gaffigan, Whoopi Goldberg,
Richard Belzer, Joe Piscopo, Jeffrey Ross,
Joy Behar, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Bill Burr,
Artie Lang, Arsenio Hall, Penn Jillette

 

Excellent documentary about comedian/actor Gilbert Gottfried is, not surprisingly, quite often hilarious, but it’s also, surprisingly, quite often moving.

Early on we encounter Gottfried the family man. To the shock of everyone, especially Gilbert himself, Gottfried has been with a lovely, funny woman for 20 years and the apparently very happy couple has two kids.

Gottfried admits on camera that he feels like he’s in a Twilight Zone episode and at some point he’s going to wake up to his real life, sans family.

As we learn, his wife, Dara, is pretty much a saint as she puts up with Gottfried’s aloofness, his hoarding and his notorious cheapness. The contents in the containers under the family beds are kind of jaw-dropping to normal humans – seemingly hundreds of hotel soap bars, bottles of shampoo and mini-deodorants. She also pretty much takes care of his every need.

And as one interviewee puts it, Dara is basically raising three kids, not two.

All of this is very sweet and much of it is very funny (Gilbert’s anniversary and birthday cards to his wife are hysterical, but could be horrifying to most people upon receipt. Luckily, Dara knew — and loved – what she was getting into).

Gilbert boasts a bevy of fascinating tidbits from the likes of Jay Leno, Artie Lange, Lewis Black, etc. all of whom agree that Gilbert is a “comedian’s comedian”, demonstrated by his remarkable, immediate bounce back after a disastrous reception to his (TOO SOON!!) 9/11 joke at the Hugh Hefner roast by launching into the infamous inside-baseball joke, The Aristocrats.

This act even inspired its own feature-length doc (Paul Provenza’s The Aristocrats) which is an absolute gem in its own right.

Gilbert is full of great moments such as the unanticipated trip to a very niche fan convention, Gottfried’s preferred (i.e. cheap) mode of transportation while on tour and a wonderfully touching benefit show for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

We also get to meet Gilbert’s sisters and – through home videos – their mother. All the siblings are artistic (one of his sisters is a terrific photographer) and Gilbert does his best to see them every day.

His famous controversies are also addressed, and these are nothing if not timely in the age of #TakeAKnee, etc. I’d forgotten that his jokes about the tsunami in Japan led to his being fired from Aflac – people, including friends, were pissed.

But as Dara points out, humor – however inappropriate – is the way Gilbert deals with tragedy, relating a funny anecdote about her beloved grandmother’s death and Gilbert’s comment, which luckily made her laugh.

Despite his flaws, Gilbert Gottfried comes across quite well here, and Gilbert does a terrific job presenting Gilbert as a good guy, and an incredibly funny guy to boot.

 

 

 

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