Neil Berkeley on 'Gilbert,' a quiet portrait of a loud-mouthed comedian
Documentary filmmaker Neil Berkeley desperately wanted to make a movie about the screeching comedian Gilbert Gottfried. But when he started spending time with Gottfried and his wife Dara, he found someone who was much different from -- and quieter than -- his onstage persona. Berkeley tells us about getting to know the real Gottfried and following him on the road, where he is shockingly frugal.
Documentarian Neil Berkeley spent seven months filming loud-mouthed comedian Gilbert Gottfried at home and on the road. He learned that Gottfried can squeeze a penny until it screams, and that off-stage, the bombastic Gottfried is a quiet, devoted family man. Berkeley tells KCRW's Matt Holzman about the risky strategy he used to make Gilbert -- filming the entire documentary even though Gottfried had not signed a release. And Berkeley explains how he funds his filmmaking through a day job as a graphic designer for TV shows like the Property Brothers and Real Housewives.
Photo: Director Neil Berkeley filming comedian Gilbert Gottfried for the documentary Gilbert (Arlene Gottfried)
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Whether he’s doing stand-up, acting in movies like Beverly Hills Cop 2, or performing as the famous parrot in Disney’s Aladdin, the screeching voice of Gilbert Gottfried is unmistakable.
But a new documentary called Gilbert offers a very different perspective on the comedian, who rose to prominence doing stand-up in the 1980s and went on to rack up scores of film and TV credits. He’s also done memorable voice over work like the Aflac insurance duck.
Despite his abrasive on-stage persona, Gottfried is a family man -- a devoted husband, father and brother who spends much of his time off-stage living a mundane life in New York.
Gottfried and his wife Dara have been married for more than a decade. Their two young kids know their dad travels most weekends to perform, but needless to say, know nothing of Gottfried’s often very off-color routines.
Neil Berkeley is the director of Gilbert, which is now available on iTunes and Amazon. This is the third documentary Berkeley has made about a creative, complicated man in show business. His previous films are Beauty Is Embarrassing about artist Wayne White and Harmontown, about showrunner Dan Harmon.
He recently spoke to KCRW’s Matt Holzman about what he’s learned from following all three men, and about his long quest to make a movie about Gottfried, which included the risky strategy of not having Gottfried sign a release until the movie was finished.