Jewish-American actor, comedian Gilbert Gottfried dies at 67

The iconic voice of comedy died after a long battle with a heart rhythm condition known as recurrent ventricular tachycardia.

 Gilbert Gottfried at the Writer's Guild of America East Solidarity Rally in Washington Square (2007). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Gilbert Gottfried at the Writer's Guild of America East Solidarity Rally in Washington Square (2007).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Famed Jewish-American actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried has passed away at the age of 67 following a long bout with illness, his family announced in an official Twitter statement on Tuesday.

"We are heartbroken to announce the death of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness," his family tweeted. "In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert's honor."

His longtime friend and publicist Glenn Schwartz clarified in a statement to USA Today that the cause of death was recurrent ventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm condition caused by irregular electrical signals in the heart's lower chambers.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to a Jewish family, Gottfried has had a storied career in the entertainment industry. Renowned for his stand-up at a young age and earning the moniker as "the comedian's comedian," he soon gained further fame on Saturday Night Live before branching out into film and television roles. 

Arguably, apart from his SNL roles, his most famous roles were as Iago, the talking parrot in Disney's Aladdin franchise and his longtime role voicing the duck mascot for the Aflac insurance company. 

But what helped define his career so much was also his iconic nasally voice, something that made his voice incredibly recognizable.

He further found success, as well as controversy, as a comedian for his incredibly raunchy jokes. Arguably his most controversial moment was when he made a joke about the September 11 terrorist attacks just three weeks after they had happened, as well as being famous for the infamously disgusting and hilarious Aristocrats joke. He had also played Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in a Netflix roast of Anne Frank.

Gottfried's Judaism was something he was known for, though he had said in the past that he never had a bar mitzvah, however his daughter did have a bat mitzvah over Zoom in 2020. One recurring comedic act he did was the form of his "Rabbi Gottfried" character, where he played on his naturally nasally voice to be deliberately annoying while singing religious songs in gibberish.

Following the announcement of his death, many celebrities came out to pay tribute to the legendary voice of comedy.

"Gilbert Gottfried made me laugh at times when laughter did not come easily. What a gift," actor Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame tweeted. "I did not know him well but I loved what he shared with me. My best wishes and sympathy to his family."

"Opening for Gilbert Gottfried at Carolines and Princeton Catch was one of the great thrills of my early stand up life," noted famed Jewish-American comedian and political pundit Jon Stewart. "He could leave you gasping for breath…just indescribably unusually hilarious…Damn."

"Big loss to the world of comedy. Gilbert Gottfried has left us," tweeted comedian and former Minesotta senator Al Franken. "Fearless and hilarious!!! A truly lovely man, loved by all in comedy. May his memory be a blessing to his family, his friends & all he made laugh!"

"Gilbert Gottfried made me laugh so hard that day on set, I could barely do my job," noted comedian and voice actor Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame, referring to a scene in the film A Million Ways to Die in the West they were both in. "A wholly original comic, and an equally kind and humble guy behind the scenes. He will be missed."