You might only know comedian Gilbert Gottfried as the screeching nightmare of a man in Problem Child, or as the voice of a parrot in Aladdin and a duck in Aflac Insurance commercials. The gonzo, unexpectedly touching new documentary Gilbert, which you can watch the trailer for above, will therefore come as a huge surprise to those unacquainted with the comic — and perhaps an even bigger shock to diehard fans. Even on his interview podcast, we’ve never heard Gottfried as open and unguarded as he is here.
With the help of more than a dozen fellow comics, director Neil Berkeley charts the ups and downs of Gottfried’s life, including his nearly career-ending tweets about the 2011 Japanese tsunami. We follow him to stand-up gigs and budget motels, as he travels on low-cost airlines or by bus. But we’re also offered incredible perspective on Gottfried’s private life, which includes a wife and two children and a $3 million New York City townhouse apartment.
Plus, in a subplot that could easily make for its own documentary, there’s a moving portrait of Gottfried’s relationship with one of his sisters, Arlene, a New York photographer and one-time gospel singer. A moment near the end of the film, when Gottfried talks about his deceased parents, will move audiences to tears. Gilbert, which premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, has been compared, deservingly, to Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.
“Gilbert never really said I could do this,” Berkeley tells EW. “I just started showing up at his house, and a year and a half later we had a movie. I think everyone is going to really enjoy getting to know the real Gilbert and all of the incredible people in his life we never even knew existed.”
Gilbert opens in select theaters Nov. 3.