When it came to having a signature voice in his acting and comedy, Gilbert Gottfried was king. Before his 2017 documentary, rarely did the public get to hear what the comedian — behind beloved avian characters Cyberchase‘s Didge, Aladdin‘s Iago, and the Aflac duck — sounded like when he was out of character.
But one time, when Gottfried — who died at age 67 — visited The Howard Stern Show, listeners got a glimpse of what Gottfried sounded like when he wasn’t acting. After playing sound from Aladdin, Stern shared a clip of “off-the-air Gilbert” leaving a voicemail for the show’s producer Gary Dell’Abate years prior.
“Yeah, Gary, it’s Gilbert. I’ll probably be there tomorrow, but if you can call me up… and tell me exactly what’s going on tomorrow. And who’s going to be there,” Gottfried said in the old voicemail. (It comes up at 1:15 in the video above.) “If worse comes to worst if I could just call in. Ok, I’ll just talk to you whenever.”
Stern and his team joked that the voice was “serial killer Gilbert” as Stern described him as “Gilbert Manson.” Gottfried also chimed in: “That’s Bruce Dern! He’s a very quiet man.”
Even when Gottfried appeared in interviews about serious subject matter, he never let go of his unique voice, only toning it down depending on what he was talking about. (See the time he spoke about 9/11 in an interview and when he was interviewed by Good Morning America about the death of his friend Bob Saget late last year.)
Gottfried shared how he came to use such a voice in an interview with Time Out New York in 2014, saying he never sat down and told himself, “I’m gonna talk this way.” “To me, it’s kind of like if you see anybody walking down the street or sipping their cup of coffee and you ask them, how did you develop that walk? How did you develop that way of holding a coffee cup? There’s no thought to it, just over years, that’s what you are,” he said. “In real life I sound like Bing Crosby!”
The beloved actor-comedian explained he’d get strange reactions from people who are surprised to hear he speaks differently. “People will act strange if I don’t act the way they want me to act in person. But even though I think they’re crazy for thinking that way, I’m basically the same as those people,” he said. “It’s like, I’ve never met Julia Roberts, but if I met her and she didn’t open her mouth really wide and start cackling and waving her hair around, I would think, ‘Why is she acting so different now?’ “
Gottfried’s family attributed his death to a “long illness,” with his publicist Glenn Schwartz adding that he suffered from recurrent ventricular tachycardia, a form of heart failure, due to myotonic dystrophy type II (a genetic disorder of progressive skeletal muscle weakness).