Gilbert Gottfried says he's still “kind of heartbroken” that he was kicked off this season's Celebrity Apprentice after only three rounds. “I really thought if I sold enough pies and frozen dinners that he would have me running his empire,” he told NUVO this week from his Brooklyn apartment — which happens to doubles as the studio for a recently launched podcast series, Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast!, that finds the 59-year-old comedian interviewing pop culture figures from his TV-mad childhood.
Guys like Larry Storch from F Troop, who declined to talk about the size of co-star Forrest Tucker's package (comparable to Milton Berle's), despite Gottfried's prompting. And Gianni Russo, who played Carlo in The Godfather films and admitted to killing two people on the show. Gottfried, who performs Friday at Morty's Comedy Club, talked about the podcast, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, The Aristocrats and erotic fiction, among other topics.
NUVO: Why would you volunteer to spend time with such an awful, awful man?
Gilbert Gottfried: That's something I ask myself about everything I do in my career. Some people answer the phone: “Hello?” I answer the phone: “I'll take it!” The show gets a tremendous amount of exposure, and when they fired me, it wasn't like I was begging to stay. I think of Donald Trump has a less warm and cuddly Hitler.
NUVO: What are some of your favorite interviews thus far from the podcast series you're doing?
Gottfried: Oh god, there's a bunch. I interviewed Roger Corman, the old B-movie director who put out these zero-budget films of biker chicks and girls from prison and monsters from space. He told this story that one time he was supposed to go out and play tennis, and it turned out it was raining that day. So because he couldn't go out and play tennis, he decided to make a movie. So they made a movie that day with Boris Karloff and a young, unknown actor named Jack Nicholson. It was called The Terror and to this day, no one knows what the plot of the movie is.
NUVO: Just a haunted house on the beach, right?
Gottfried: Ask anybody who's worked on it; no one knows what the movie is about. I guess they had access to a haunted house at one of the studios, so they said, 'Eh, what the hell.' Then we interviewed Bob Saget, Weird Al Yankovic, Danny Aiello; a whole bunch of people.
NUVO: How do you decide who to have on?
Gottfried: I try to stick to these old actors and people familiar with those old actors. I like these actors that I grew up watching, I would see them on TV all the time when I was a kid, hear stories about them. The best part about it is I get a lot of people sending me messages which say, 'I had no idea who you were talking to and I had no idea about the people you were talking about, so I had to keep looking them up.' To me, that's like giving a fun homework assignment.
NUVO: Who are some of the guests that people say they didn't know before they heard the show.
Gottfried: There was Larry Storch from F Troop, who's 91 or 92. He was telling stories about being on the TV show, being friends with Tony Curtis. I tried to get him to talk about his co-star Forrest Tucker, because I heard Tucker had what Milton Berle was most famous for — that he was well-endowed. And he wouldn't bite the worm, so to speak. And I interviewed the guy who played Carlo in The Godfather, who was always beating up Talia Shire. He claims to have killed two people in real life, and he says, 'Those are two people I can admit to.' I guess there must be some kind of law where you're allowed two people, and then after that murder is illegal.
NUVO: He actually admitted that on the show?
Gottfried: Oh, yes. And we had this old talk show host, Joe Franklin, telling us that on one of his shows, he had both James Dean and Al Pacino, together. I did the math and Al Pacino would have had to have been 10. And we interviewed Adam West and he said that he and Frank Gorshin, who played The Ridder, were once kicked out of an orgy.
NUVO: What'd they do?
Gottfried: I don't know! They snuck into an orgy and maybe they weren't taking it all that seriously. I heard stories that they started acting out, yelling at each other as Batman and The Riddler.
NUVO: What's the setup like? Is it really on the couch in your apartment?
Gottfried: Sometimes it's in my apartment. If it has to be on the phone, it's on the phone. Sometimes we'll pick different places to go to. Sometimes we'll go to their apartment.
NUVO: Some of the guys you have on are a little before your time — or you would have been watching them at a very young age.
Gottfried: When I was growing up, the greatest film school in the country was in your living room. TV sets would have movies all the time, these old movies. I got familiar with all these different people. And then there were variety shows. I interviewed Marty Allen from the old comedy team Allen & Rossi, who followed The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
NUVO: What were your favorite movies back then?
Gottfried: I got to experience everything back then. My favorite were the old monster movies. I can't interview those guys because they're all gone, but I interviewed Bela Lugosi's daughter and Boris Karloff's son. But back then there were also the old gangster movies with Bogart and Cagney and Robinson.
NUVO: Any good stories about Karloff or Lugosi?
Gottfried: With Karloff's daughter we started talking about how Karloff once ran into Frank Sinatra at a restaurant and told him, 'You know how to sing with your voice. You have to learn how to act with your voice.' And Boris Karloff was kind of giving lessons to Frank Sinatra. And Boris Karloff was one of the founders of the modern-day acting unions like SAG and AFTRA. They used to have to sneak around because they could get in trouble; they would park their cars at separate locations.
NUVO: People forget, or never knew, that he was a British gentleman and a very versatile, well-versed actor.
Gottfried: Oh, yeah, and she talked about how he made a crazy amount of films before he did Frankenstein. That's the one that made him famous but he had been kicking around in stage and movies before.
NUVO: To shift gears a little, I was thinking about how the staff of Charlie Hebdo joked about the attacks on their offices a week after the event, whereas people gave you shit for joking about 9/11 three weeks after the attacks. I wonder if you have respect for that French style of humor, which seems comparable to what you do and what some other standups do, where there aren't any sacred cows.
Gottfried: I totally have respect for that. What happened to them is the extreme of the idea of people who just can't take a joke, who feel like they're going to be in charge of their own personal morality. That has to exist. People talk about The Great Dictator, where Charlie Chaplin mocked Hitler when the American studios were afraid to go near that subject. But before that was The Three Stooges, who did a film called You Nazty Spy!, where Moe was Hitler. What I respect about movies like that is that they made the whole idea of Hitler so much weaker than what he was by mocking it. Stuff like that has to be made fun of.