Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, one of the most recognizable voices in animation and entertainment in general, has died aged 67. The news was shared by Gottfried’s family on the artist’s official Twitter account on Tuesday, writing that he had passed away “after a long illness”. According to his publicist, he suffered from myotonic muscular dystrophy type II.
In addition to his many film and television credits since the 1970s – including saturday night live, The Cosby Show, Beverly Hills Cop II, Problem Child, Hollywood Squares, The Aristocrats and late-night shows with Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver – Gottfried has lent his distinctive New York tones to dozens of animated favorites, including as wisecracking parrot henchman Iago in Disney’s Aladdin (1992).
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness. In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, keep laughing as hard as you can in Gilbert’s honor.
—Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) April 12, 2022
John Musker, who produced and directed Aladdin with Ron Clements, remembered the late actor as “a pleasure to work with” in a Facebook post. He added: “Gilbert left too soon, but that voice will ring in my head forever! And I’ll laugh when I think about it.
Born February 28, 1955, in Brooklyn, Gottfried began doing open mic sets around New York City when he was just 15, quickly developing a reputation as a “comedian comedian” and catching the eyes of SNL producers. He joined the NBC sketch cast in 1980, but truly launched his career as a household name after appearing in a series of impromptu promos for MTV a few years later.
Aladdin marked Gottfried’s first big break into animation, and he quickly became an in-demand comedy and cartoon star — usually as a loud-mouthed, hot-tempered villain, making the most of his unique voice. During the 1990s he appeared in TV Favorites Bonkers, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Beavis and Butt-Head, Bobby’s World, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, Duckman, Dr. Katz, Superman, Hercules, Problem Child: The Animated Series and, of course, the many Aladdin sequels, spin-offs and animated series, as well as the revival of Iago in many other Disney cartoons/games.
The genius of crude comedy hasn’t slowed down in the 21st century either. He continued to host top toons like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, The Emperor’s New School, Pretty Odd Parents, My Gym Partner Is A Monkey, Back To The Barnyard, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), The Tom and Jerry Show, Justice League Action, Family Guy, Teen Titans Go!, SpongeBob SquarePants, Kamp Koral and Smiling friends as well as puppet shows Bear in the Big Blue House and Yankers cranksand played on Celebrity Deathmatch.
Gottfried regularly voiced Digit and Widget on the long-running PBS math series KIDS Cyberhunting for 20 years, for which he was nominated together for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding New Approaches – Children’s in 2009. He was also honored with a plaque at the Horror Host Hall of Fame in 2015 for USA all nighta Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Gilbert Gottfried’s Incredibly Colossal Podcast in 2019 and, remarkably, received three Razzie nominations – all in 1991.
Gottfried is survived by his wife of 15 years, Dara (Kravitz) Gottfried, and their two children.[Sources: Variety, IMDb]