Gilbert Gottfried


Many of us in life struggle to be heard. Perhaps we’re the youngest in a loud, boisterous family. Perhaps we’re the most introverted in the boardroom. Or perhaps, we’re trying to make a living getting a crowd of rowdy drunks to laugh.

If any of those realities is our day-to-day, how might that affect our voice? Would we get more abrasive in tone, more forceful in choice of words?

GILBERT is the story of comedian Gilbert Gottfried. Arriving on the New York comedy scene in the late seventies, and breaking through as a mainstream comedic force by the early 90’s, Gottfried has crafted a brash persona. With a voice that sounds like an over-caffeinated goat, and a knack for telling the jokes that few dare to utter, Gottfried’s personality is singular. The man is neurotic and abrasive, so the very idea that he could be a husband and father almost defies logic.

And yet he is both.

GILBERT introduces us to the real man; his true voice, and shows him with his defenses down. We meet his wife Dara and his children, and learn how every moment of truth in his wild career has shaped the man we think we know.

On the surface, a documentary about someone as boorish as Gilbert Gottfried probably sounds as appealing as an IRS audit during a root canal. The unexpectedly beautiful truth, is that the film is tender, sweet, funny, and introspective. It shows us how one person can compliment us in ways we never expect, and make us our very best selves. It likewise makes us contemplate how far we’ll go for validation…from those that went before us, and those that remain.

Gilbert’s story takes us back to 2011 when he was fired from Aflac for insensitive tweets. It reminds us of how Gottfried was one of the first public figures to be shamed for comments on social media, and perhaps even asks us if we over-reacted. The documentary never asks comment from Gilbert on the matter, nor does it make any of its own. Instead, it just reminds us, and leaves us to consider our collective reaction.

GILBERT evokes the moment in THE WIZARD OF OZ when we meet “the man behind the curtain”. Expectations are dashed, perceptions altered. What we first believed to be chaos contained, or larger-than-life, is in fact as human and fragile as the rest of us. Through misdirection and pandemonium, we become awed and amused.

Meanwhile, off to the side, a man yells into a microphone and commands our attention…desperately hoping we never notice the fragility contained within him.


GILBERT plays at Hot Docs 2017 on Monday, May 1st, 9:30pm at The Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema. It plays again on Tuesday May 2nd, 12:45pm at Hart House. It then plays Hart House once more on Sunday May 7th – 9pm.