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Gilbert Gottfried: Travels of a miserable guy

Stand-up comic Gilbert Gottfried, well-known these days as the grating voice of the AFLAC duck, has always claimed he's a miserable guy. After listening to his travel stories, you'll see he's spot on.
Image: Comedian Gilbert Gottfriend
Stand-up comedian Gilbert Gottfriend has played numerous roles in movies and TV.Scott Wintrow / Getty Images
/ Source: Special to

Stand-up comic Gilbert Gottfried might be most well-known these days as the incredibly grating voice of the duck on the AFLAC Insurance commercials, but he’s also been in the “Problem Child” movies and “The Aristocrats” and is a fixture on the late-night talk-shows, “Hollywood Squares,” the New York roast circuit and “The Howard Stern Show.”

Gottfried recently released “Gilbert Gottfried Dirty Jokes” on DVD and CD and was in a reasonably good mood — for him, at least — when we got him on the phone to talk travel.

Q: You always describe yourself as a pretty miserable guy. Are you doubly miserable when you travel?

A: Oh, absolutely. With me, traveling for work is arriving at the airport, checking into the hotel, leaving the hotel the next morning at 4 or 5 to do something like “The Jimmy and Jackie Captain Crazy Morning Zoo,” doing a bunch of those in a row, then going back to the hotel, and then finally going to the club. My sightseeing pretty much consists of watching the streets from the hotel to the radio station and then going from the hotel to the club. That’s the definition of misery.

Q: So you just stay in the hotel when you’re not working?

A: That’s really it. Just sitting there, watching TV, maybe looking at the hotel lobby. If someone doesn’t drag me out, I don’t see anything. I always wish the hotels were like they are in movies and TV shows, where if you’re in Paris, right outside your window is the Eiffel Tower. In Egypt, the pyramids are right there. In the movies, every hotel has a monument right outside your window. My hotel rooms overlook the garbage dumpster in the back alley.

Q: You must have your whole hotel routine down to a science.

A: Sure, but I have fears, and my biggest one is that the key won’t work. It’s like pulling a slot machine with your chances of the green light actually coming up. It’s a horrible feeling when it doesn’t work and you have to go down to the lobby again. I always hold my breath when I put in the card. But once I finally am in the room and I drop my luggage down, the first thing I do is go into the bathroom and see what they have in the way of shampoo, conditioner and skin lotion, and also what I can steal from the hotel.

One time two years ago, I moved, and it was quite frightening. I had tremendous boxes of shampoos and lotions that could have had their own apartment. And the bad part about that is that they give you a hard time about traveling because of liquids. It makes it more difficult now. Sewing kits, too. They stopped me in security. I had a tiny sewing kit with a pair of scissors the size of your thumbnail, but they said because of flight regulations, you can’t have scissors. Seriously, you could have shoved those scissors into your eye and not hurt yourself.

Q: What about vacations? Do you take any?

A: I’m a very anti-vacation person. Because I’m always getting on planes for work, to me, a vacation is when I don’t have to get on a plane. I’m one of those people, in any country I’m in, if somebody could just put me in a car or a bus, I’ll look out the window and say, “OK, there’s the Tower of London, there’s Buckingham Palace, there’s Big Ben,” and if it all takes about five minutes, perfect. I’ve seen all of it and I can go home. I’ve always felt that way. Drive me past it, and then I can say I’ve seen it. I can actually claim I was there.

Q: You live in New York. Do you at least get out and do anything in that city?

A: Not really. But God knows I’m going to the opera every day. Between the opera and the ballet, I’m never home. Seriously, I don’t do anything that this city has to offer except maybe get a hot dog and a papaya every now and then. And it’s disgusting.

Q: OK, well, at least New York has great beaches. Do you make the most out of those?

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Q: Any good horror stories from travel?

A: One time on a plane, we had already taken off. We’re in the sky and they announce that there’s a problem with one of the wings. I thought, “Oh, this is a nice time to tell us. That makes me feel very relaxed.” Then they said they were going to try not to land, that they were going to try to fix it. I thought, “Who the hell are they going to send out there to fix this thing?” Eventually, they did have to land to fix it.

And then I always lose luggage. Always. It’s like the old joke where a guy goes to an airport and says, “I want to go to Hawaii, but can you send one of my bags to China and one of my bags to Cincinnati?” The person at the counter says, “Why do you want us to do that?” The guy says, “Why not? You did it last time.”

And what’s become more awful is that since September 11, the security people take my bags, empty them, pat me down, have my arms in the air, and they’re saying they’re big fans of mine and they’ve seen all the “Problem Child” movies and they’ve seen “The Aristocrats.” One time they were doing that to me and said what big fans they were. And I said, “OK, great. But you still have to search me?” They said, “Don’t worry about it. Yesterday we searched Julie Andrews.” So basically they’re keeping the air safe from me and Julie Andrews.