AUGUSTA — “Whenever I’ve got a gig coming up … I tend to dread it.”

Gilbert Gottfried (Photo by Arlene Gottfried)

That’s what Gilbert Gottfried told the Kennebec Journal about his upcoming gig at the Augusta Civic Center. City residents shouldn’t be offended; he thinks that about every city he visits.

“I always have this dream right before I go on that the owner is going to come backstage and say there was a fire or a flood and say, ‘Here’s your check. Go home,'” he said. “I’m usually happy after I finish the shows.”

The 64-year-old comedian and actor said he’s sure that he has been to the Pine Tree State before, but he didn’t know how many times. He said his schedule blends together because he is on the road so much.

“I know I’ve been (to Maine before), but I completely lose track,” Gottfried said. “Every weekend I’m somewhere. There are places I swear I’ve never been to.”

He spent one year in 1980 as part of the cast of “Saturday Night Live” after rising to fame in New York City comedy clubs in the 1970s. Depending on their age, people may know Gottfried as the shrill duck from Aflac commercials, as the voice of Iago from “Aladdin” or from more than 160 acting credits.

“I’m always kind of happy when they say they were fans of something,” he said. “It’s all age periods; some people its ‘Aladdin,’ some people it’s ‘The Aristocrats.'”

Gottfried said some projects he worked on — noting the movies “Beverly Hills Cop 2” and “Problem Child” as a couple of them — are cited more often by fans when they meet him. He said many people on the set of “Problem Child,” including the movie’s star, John Ritter, thought the movie was going to be a dud; but the movie performed well in the box offices, catching $72.2 million, well beyond the movie’s $10 million budget.

“I was finished for my shooting and I went to John Ritter’s trailer and he was just kind of depressed,” Gottfried said. “I think he was apologizing; I think he thought it was going to be a big bomb.

“One person at the studio said, ‘We’re going to treat this one like a wounded soldier on the battlefield; we’re just let it die and we’ll all just run for our lives,'” he added. “Then it came out and it was a monster hit.”

Gottfried was also a regular on the popular game show “Hollywood Squares.” He said he had “a lot of fun doing the show.”

“Growing up, I used to watch ‘Hollywood Squares,’ and I would watch it and think … it’s a funny show, but boy when you’re on ‘Hollywood Squares,’ this must be the bottom of the barrel for show business,” he said. “I guess God was listening and offered it to me.”

His comedy, he admits, has gotten more vulgar through the years; and he said he will attempt to shock his audience in Augusta. Gottfried has shocked people before, earning some negative press along the way. In 2011, he was dropped as the voice of the Aflac duck after making a series of jokes about the tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan. Gottfried also caught some heat for making a joke about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City just weeks after the event; he will feature it in a documentary called “Too Soon: The Comedy of 9/11,” which is being filmed now.

Since then, Gottfried has been a staunch opponent of “political correctness,” penning an opinion piece for CNN in 2012 defending controversial jokes. He told the Kennebec Journal he can recognize when he will spark outrage with a joke or comment.

“I think twice before I say something, but I say it anyway,” Gottfried said. “After the words come out of my mouth … I think, uh oh, now I’m going to be in trouble with this.”

“George Carlin said it was the duty of a comedian to find out where the line is drawn and then deliberately cross over it,” he added.

As culture shifts toward political correctness, Gottfried referenced a “moral majority,” a silent group that has a high moral standard, and challenged that the majority of people know how to take an offensive joke.

“I like to think of it in terms of … no matter how loud the political correctness … or outrage gets, the majority of people know what a joke is,” he said.

Aside from his comedy shows, Gottfried records a weekly podcast, titled “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.” Started in 2014, the show has more than 200 episodes and has attracted high-profile guests such as Dick Van Dyke and Howie Mandel.

“I didn’t think it would last this long,” he said. “I’m amazed at the people who have agreed to do it over the years.”

If you have a little extra cash, you also can hire Gottfried on Cameo, an app through which users commission celebrities to send short video messages to their friends or enemies. A personalized message from Gottfried cost $175.

“If you hate someone, I guess a message from Gilbert Gottfried will annoy them enough,” he laughed.

Tickets cost $30 for his performance at 8 p.m. April 26. They are available on Ticketmaster and the Augusta Civic Center’s box office. Gottfried will be in Bangor at the Downunder Club at Seasons Grill and Lounge on April 25.

Gottfried will be joined that night by Manchester, New Hampshire, comedian Rob Steen.

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME


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