“I just wanted to be in Tribeca so that I can legally refer to Robert De Niro as ‘Bob,'” Gilbert Gottfried joked, sitting down with director Neil Berkeley (Harmontown, Beauty Is Embarrassing) at Deadline’s 2017 Tribeca Studio to discuss their documentary, Gilbert.
A legendary stand-up comedian and actor with a voice recognizable to many who was propelled to fame in the 1980s, Gottfried was candid about his total reluctance to participate in the project, which peeks beyond the curtain of the comedic persona and into the personal life of the comedian, who became a husband and father later in life. “[Berkeley] said he wanted to do a documentary about me, and I said no,” Gottfried recalled of his initial meeting with the director. “That was basically it. I agreed to meet with him because he was going to pay for lunch.”
While Gottfried sees that the documentary is getting “good reviews and great audience reaction,” that certainly doesn’t change his experience of the project, in terms of the filming process, and screening the film for audiences. “Me watching it is kind of like, ‘I kind of think, this could be what hell is.’ You sit down, and the Devil clicks your life on the screen, and you have to watch it,” Gottfried laughed. “I’m someone who, if you ask me what’s my favorite candy or something, I’m reluctant to talk about it. I keep most things secret, so to be revealing stuff, yeah—I have a hard time watching it.”
A highly beloved “fringe” talent—appreciated by Berkeley and so many others—the film features testimonials from many of Gottfried’s fellow comedians and public personalities, including Dave Atell, Joy Behar, Lewis Black, Bill Burr and Whoopi Goldberg. Per Berkeley, getting these talents to appear in the doc was easy, though there was one famous actor and comedian who had to pull out at the last moment: Jim Carrey, who was fighting a wrongful death lawsuit after his girlfriend committed suicide.
To view the conversation with Gottfried and director Neil Berkeley—known for his fascinating portraits of the artist—click above. Upcoming showtimes for the doc can be found here.