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Gilbert Gottfried’s friends remember jokes he made about his death

Gilbert Gottfried, considered a comedian’s comedian, kept his living illness a secret from all but his closest friends. He did what he could to keep his wild sense of humor alive even when death threatened. Appropriately, those who occupied his inner circle strove to make Gottfried, who died Tuesday at the age of 67, laugh.

Penn Jillette, who Gottfried met decades ago when they appeared together on Howard Stern’s show, was among the last to speak to the comedian. “Being in the room with Gilbert was like being in the room with Miles Davis,” Jillette said of his late friend’s reckless improvisational talent.

Jillette’s wife, Emily, was in the hospital room with Gottfried and his wife, Dara, and she held a phone to Gottfried’s ear so the two comedians could have one last call.

“I spoke to him 20 minutes before he was officially dead when they were about to pull Gilbert’s ventilator off,” Jillette gulped to The Post. “I tried to crack a few jokes. Then I broke down and said, ‘I love you.’ That was it.”

Jillette, who is strictly scientific, added, “I have no illusions that he understood me.”

Good friend Penn Jillette spoke to Gottfried in the minutes before his death.
Good friend Penn Jillette spoke to Gottfried in the minutes before his death.
Gregorio Binuya/Everett Collection

Gottfried died of recurrent ventricular tachycardia, a heart disease caused by myotonic dystrophy type 2.

Jillette told the Post that even while battling a terminal illness – which, “when he’s not working, the comedian [could be] unbelievably quiet and gentle and not mean” – maintaining its comedic edge.

“We’ve always loved doing transgressive humor,” Jillette said. “If you thought Gilbert wasn’t safe for work on television, in films, or in the star, you have no idea how far Gilbert can go.”

Sharing, he told the Post reporter, “would end my career and your memory and his in one fell swoop.”

According to Frank Santopadre – a friend and co-host of Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing, Colossal Podcast! With Frank Santopadre” – less than a month before his death, Gottfried was still as funny as ever.

“I don’t think he thought his days were going to end,” Santopadre told the Post. “I think he thought he was going to get better and move on. Two weeks ago he performed in Toronto and it was like always. Then we did our podcast on March 31st and it delivered. There was no way Gilbert was acting like someone slowing down.”

To lift his spirits, comedian July Gold said she would write inappropriate jokes to Gottfried and he would reply: "lol"
To lift his spirits, comedian July Gold said she would text Gottfried inappropriate jokes and he would reply, “LOL.”
WireImage

Speaking from the studio, Santopadre said: “I would ask how he feels. Gilbert would say he was fine, dodge the question and move on. He’s a guy who wanted to be funny. Gilbert would call me, I would answer, and he would start impressioning. I loved his Herve Villechaize as Al Pacino’s character in ‘Scent of a Woman’, in which he dived headlong and milked the French accent by any means necessary.”

Comedian Judy Gold did her best to keep her pal’s spirits up.

“In January I texted Gilbert with a totally inappropriate joke. He replied ‘LOL’.” But, she added, as much as Gottfried tried to keep his illnesses under wraps, sometimes it was impossible: “Just before Covid I took him on stage at Gotham Comedy Club and he needed my hand , to get there . If you knew Gilbert you could tell he was ill.”

Jillette said Gottfried's goal was for coverage of his death to receive at least half as much media coverage as that of Bob Saget.
Jillette said Gottfried’s goal was for coverage of his death to receive at least half as much media coverage as that of Bob Saget.
WireImage

However, that didn’t stop him from joking about death. “Gilbert [performed at] an advantage for my child’s school,” she recalls. “A woman had a stroke during Gilbert’s set and died. We joked that it was sad, but to make it even sadder, the last thing she heard was Gilbert’s voice.”

When it came to black humor, Jillette recalled, Gottfried wasn’t very relaxed. “He made a lot of jokes about dying. He had a defibrillator with him [chest]. When his heart failed, the defibrillator would kick him in the chest and it was like being kicked off a horse. He would say, “Horses hate me. They hate little Jews. They’re waiting online to kick me in the chest. The horses have a newsletter about it.’”

Even the medical staff got a taste of his comedic sensibilities.

“Near the end, the doctors wanted to see if there was any brain damage,” Jillette said. “They asked him to do math to show he was in his right mind. Instead, he sang the theme song to ‘Car 54, Where are You?’.”

Sick in the hospital, Gottfried tried to make the medical staff laugh.
Sick in the hospital, Gottfried tried to make the medical staff laugh.
Getty Images

He and Jillette even joked about his obituary.

“I met Gilbert on his 67th birthdayth birthday and told him, ‘You can die now because the obituary wouldn’t say you died young,'” Jillette said.

Noting that the death of mutual friend Bob Saget was mourned but still provided comedic fodder, Jillette recalled discussing how Saget’s death dominated the news cycle and what the route of tributes to Gottfried might be.

“He said he’d like to beat Saget,” Jillette recalled. “Gilbert said Saget got six days [of headlines] and he would get at least three. Gilbert won’t make the cover of People, but I think he’ll keep people talking about him for 300 years. That is his artistic level.”

https://nypost.com/2022/04/14/gilbert-gottfrieds-pals-recall-jokes-he-made-about-his-death/ Gilbert Gottfried’s friends remember jokes he made about his death

JACLYN DIAZ

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