Tuesday, June 18, 2019
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Cathy’s take on Gilbert Gottfried

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Gilbert Gottfried is like a cross between Peter Falk’s bumbling detective Columbo and the dry-witted old comedian George Burns. If you’re not old enough to get the references to these deceased personalities — that would be most of the roughly 200 people at Mr. Gottfried’s show at the Wood Theater last Saturday night — Gottfried combines a creaky, hunched demeanor and hesitant, pinched voice with a straight-at-you dry, even bemused delivery.

All that from behind squinted eyes, maybe light-sensitive, with a hint of conspiratorial enjoyment that makes you think of a kid who’s gone rogue on the rules, while mom is laughing even as she gasps at the mess he’s made.

Mr. Gottfried ratchets from one subject to another mostly without any bother of “and speaking of…” bridges. Many of his bits are vulgar, and yet deeply funny.

Laughs all around — Gilbert Gottfried shares a joke with an audience member, while signing autographs after Saturday’s show at the Wood Theater. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

I had seen him when he played at Heritage Hall in January 2016 — just when the Coalition had formed to take over the then-Civic Center, now Cool Insuring Arena. Several of the Coalition members came to that show, I’m guessing out of loyalty — and he about burned their ears off wth some of his more taboo-busting jokes involving body parts and bodily fluids.

Me, I was singed but kind of loved it.

Again this time I found, weirdly, there’s no meanness to Mr. Gottfried’s comedy — not toward the subjects, even when he goes arguably racist/sexist, and not toward the audience. We’re just there to observe, while he does his thing.

This time I was inoculated and so less shocked by the worst of it. He went to some of the very worst places, but also, as I think back to that last show here, he left some things off, like a long riff on Catherine Zeta-Jones’ privates.

This also seemed a more self-selected audience, most of whom took just fine to the vulgarity. If anything, there were some pauses around some references to actors and movies that were a little dated. He’s not so young.

It’s also not all sex.

My two favorite bits were a long, incongruous reel imagining “that time” when he and the Pope were just laughing it up, getting stuck like 10-year-olds (or potheads) on a stupid word, “Wheat,” that supposedly sent them into peals of laughter any time one or the other shouted it out again. Just dumb stuff, a recognizable real life situation made weird by it being the Pope. As if.

He also does a good one on Moby Dick, how absurd, it is, to his mind, to think that a giant whale would accost a tiny sea Captain in the ocean and just nip off his leg rather than devour the whole sailor.

I’m not giving anything away, here. It’s the play of the words, repetition and the building incongruity that advance his humor beyond the starting observation.

Afterwards, Mr. Gottfried stayed to sell and sign books and tee shirts. Several people came up just to say thank you and take pictures with the icon. They remember and love him as the voice of Iago in Aladdin, as the Aflac duck, as a character actor in the movies, a cast member of Saturday Night Live, among other gigs.

A friend of mine got Mr. Gottfried laughing, hard, when she told about a 10-year-old student who earned lots of props from the class by repeating one of his cleaner jokes about a doctor breaking bad news to a distraught husband.

Host Cody Montanye from East Greenbush is a very young budding comedian who did well with jokes about going to art school, then quitting to try his luck at stand up comedy, much to the increasing consternation of his family.

Opener Andy Fiori of New York City was a little more polished. He’s brought his act here before, including good riffs about his father, a former military man who had his kids very late, decidedly older than your average dad.

Both are rising players in the Comedy Works stable that promoter Tommy Nicchi continues to send our way in his hope to break the nut, so to speak, that is comedy in Glens Falls.

Comedy has its own audience. These were people, I’d guess 30s and 40s, some 20s, who you don’t see out for music, theater, even hockey, other area offerings.

It was a good turnout, I thought. It’s hopefully one more positive experience that gets people talking, and coming back. Mr. Nicchi says he’s in this for the long game, building audience one show at a time.

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