"I do everything for pure love," comedian Gilbert Gottfried said. "Nothing has to do with finance or self-promotion. It's all love."
Gottfried, the squinting, hectoring 60-year-old comedian who can sound like a pet store of upset macaws, let out a low, unplugged version of one of his laugh-roars. It was 10 in the morning in his Chelsea apartment, a Monday, and Gottfried was just back from a weekend of headlining dates in Portland and Seattle.
His kids — a girl, 8, and a boy, 6 — were at school. The actor Richard Kind was due in an hour, and there were people in Gottfried's living room, including his wife, Dara, who co-produces his podcast, called "Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast."
"…and art," Gottfried continued. "My whole career is just, neck and neck, art and love."
There actually is love on the "Amazing Colossal Podcast" because it's about something Gottfried holds dear — the lived lives of show business. Co-hosted by Frank Santopadre, a former writer on "The View," the show, available as a weekly iTunes download, began a year ago this month. It typically consists of an hourlong conversation with an actor or writer, the angle being they're often 70 or older.
On the first episode, Gottfried and Santopadre interviewed Dick Cavett, and the bookings have since skewed older, with Larry Storch of "F Troop" fame ("He's like 92 and wasn't our oldest guest," Gottfried quipped) as well as filmmaker Roger Corman, actress Barbara Feldon and New York City talk-show legend Joe Franklin.
Franklin died six months after his episode aired. He was 88. This speaks to the podcast's emerging poignancy: Everyone dies with their stories, and here's at least one pocket of the entertainment industry still taking deposits.
With all due respect to whoever is guesting this week on Conan, Kimmel, Fallon, et al, they will not have actor James Karen's life and career. At 91, Karen, whom most would refer to as a "veteran character actor," came on the podcast and told a book's worth of gems, including about the time he used a two-week break between Broadway plays, one by Harold Pinter and the other by Edward Albee, to fly to California to shoot an insurance commercial with the Three Stooges, where he recited lines of Shakespeare with Moe Howard.
By Santopadre's count, the show's had four guests who actually worked with Buster Keaton.
"Even when I was on 'The View,' if I would pitch somebody like that, the producers would go, 'Oh, you want to do a where-are-they-now episode,'" Santopadre said. "That's people's knee-jerk reaction with the podcast too."
So along with Ken Berry, Chuck McCann and Julie Newmar they also have on younger guests, such as actor Steve Buscemi or a comic with a Twitter army like Dave Attell. A long list of hoped-for guests compiled by Dara Gottfried, with notes on their status, includes Nancy Sinatra ("sent msg via Facebook"), Dabney Coleman ("looks good"), Ann-Margret ("pass") and Robert Vaughn ("wants to pass. Revealed too much in his book.").
It could be that guests balk because the show is a podcast, the hows and wherefores of which even Gottfried doesn't seem to understand, or that his semi-beloved, semi-confounding comedic persona precedes him: The Borscht Belt escapee appearances on Comedy Central roasts, the association with "The Howard Stern Show," or the tragedy-minus-time Twitter jokes about the 2011 Japanese tsunami that cost Gottfried his gig voicing the Aflac duck. Gottfried more recently has been a guest on "The Apprentice," done voice work on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and appeared as Abraham Lincoln in Seth MacFarlane's movie "A Million Ways to Die in the West."
But none of it suggests he would be a courtly host.
Women appear on the podcast far less frequently than men. But the Gottfried of the "Amazing Colossal Podcast" isn't exactly the comedian Gilbert Gottfried, though the beast lurks. Santopadre, the straight man, asks polite, earnest and researched questions meant to spark a career memory and sometimes has to rescue the interview from Gottfried's antics (that in itself can be worth the price of admission, which is free).
But Gottfried can also go for long stretches either being serious or not saying anything at all. As an interviewer, he brings a limited but obsessional arsenal that roughly consists of apocryphal legends about the sexual fetishes of bygone Hollywood, the oeuvre of Lon Chaney Jr., and the 1978 TV movie "Bud and Lou," starring Harvey Korman and Buddy Hackett as Abbott and Costello, respectively.
Occasionally, Gottfried and Santopadre pick up guests at nostalgia shows; they sort of picked each other up that way. In 1996, Santopadre said, when he was living in L.A., he was on his way to an autograph show when he spotted Gottfried on Ventura Boulevard "wandering aimlessly." Gottfried, who doesn't drive, couldn't remember why he was in L.A. that particular time. Doing some TV show, he figured.
Santopadre did a U-turn on Ventura and pulled over. Though they had worked together on the stand-up show "Caroline's Comedy Hour," Gottfried didn't remember him. "Stand-up comics have this funny thing where you can meet them 20, 30, 40 times and they still have no idea who you are," Santopadre said.
But they ended up going to the nostalgia convention together. It was at the Beverly Garland Hotel. "He got in the car, and I drove him to the show, and he met the original Snow White," Santopadre said.
Gottfried, by the end of this anecdote, was stuck on the name Beverly Garland. "Beverly Garland, I think, came to a bad end," he said.
"She was a scream queen, she might have died," Santopadre said.
"Who was the one who worked with Cagney?" Gottfried asked.
"Beverly Garland was the wife on 'My Three Sons,'" Santopadre said. "She married a hotel magnate and he named the hotel after her. She was a '50s scream queen."
"There was another actress, I think it was Beverly something. I think she may have been in 'Bride of the Gorilla' with Lon Chaney Jr. and Raymond Massey," Gottfried said. "And she wound up actually being like a hooker, pretty much."
Kind arrived at Gottfried's apartment wearing a backpack. The podcast sometimes travels — including to people's homes or to the Friar's Club — but Kind wanted to come over and see Gottfried's artwork (the comedian has been drawing since his teens).
In a vestibule outside a bathroom they gazed at a framed caricature of Katharine Hepburn done by the actress herself. Hepburn had given it to Gottfried when the young comic was working concessions at the Broadhurst Theatre in 1976 and Hepburn was starring in the play "A Matter of Gravity."
"I even went over to her house once," Gottfried told Kind.
"You know she was neighbors with [Stephen] Sondheim," Kind said, then modulated his voice to a stage whisper: "Hated each other."
They repaired to microphones, Kind sitting between Gottfried and Santopadre at the dining table.
A workmanlike actor known for long runs on the sitcoms "Mad About You" and "Spin City," Kind was something of a ringer guest, a fan of the podcast who shares Gottfried's passion for excavating Babylonian Hollywood. With Gottfried, he was eager to start going tete-a-tete, but he set a disappointing ground rule: He would tell no tales out of school about his good friend George Clooney. Everyone else, like Jose Ferrer, was fair game.
"Now these may all be lies, by the way," Kind said after a story about Ferrer and Dustin Hoffman in an elevator when Hoffman was made up as his character in "Tootsie." "All of these are lies, but they're entertaining, and nobody's going to hear them."
Podcasts don't have hard segment breaks. The talk roamed over off-color jokes, anti-Semitic country clubs, et cetera. "Now," Gottfried said, "you were in what I consider to be a terrible movie."
That movie was "Bewitched." Kind didn't have much. But he did have one about auditioning for the 1996 remake of "The Island of Dr. Moreau." "I'm gonna tell you the whole story," Kind said. "And it's in three parts. Without an ending."
Earlier, asked how he'd prepared for the Kind interview, Gottfried said: "I met him once."