Toronto comedy and music promoter Israel Castillo couldn’t have known Gilbert Gottfried’s three shows at the 240-seat Paradise Theatre last month would be the comic’s last.
The beloved and fearless 67-year-old New York-born comedian died just over two weeks later on April 12 from a heart condition, leaving behind a wife and two children.
Now Castillo is very aware the gigs were history-making in Gottfried’s long career.
“It’s very sad,” stated Castillo, who has run his promotion firm, DFRNTnights, for 4 years however hadn’t labored with Gottfried till final month.
“When I booked him, I didn’t know that he had these (medical) issues. And then once we started talking more and more, obviously I knew that he had some sort of issue. I didn’t even think of something where these could possibly be his last shows.
“When we were talking over dinner, he was already booked for other shows in Florida and New York so he was still doing stuff on the regular. It’s quite crazy.”
Despite his nothing’s-off-limits persona on stage, off stage Gottfried was known as a sweet, low-key person, according to other comics.
Castillo had dinner with Gottfried at the Paradise restaurant before the two March 26 shows with Toronto host and comedian Mike Rita and opening act Lisa Corrao, and dinner the next day elsewhere.
“He was very mellow, very calm, very happy, very sincere,” said Castillo. “Once I saw him in person, you could kind of see that he was a little bit fragile. But he told us a few stories about all the people he’s met over his 50-year career and yeah, everything was normal. Once he got on stage, that’s when he kind of flips to become the comedian he (was).”
Prior to his Toronto shows, Gottfried asked Castillo for two little bowls, a huge stack of paper towels and tape to be on stage with him.
“So he does a whole five-minute set of him taping his eyebrows and pretending to be other people and then taping his nose and then doing voices and then he’d put the bowl on his head and do some Jewish jokes,” said Castillo.
“It was funny to see why he wanted those things. So I think that was very memorable. And also very funny.”
And while Gottfried didn’t do any Toronto-specific jokes, apparently he had a bit on maple syrup and told Castillo after the first show he’d forgotten to do it, but he did it for the next two sets.
“On the second and the third show he did a couple of minutes about maple syrup,” said Castillo. “And it’s really funny. I actually have a bottle that he bought that I was supposed to ship to him literally sitting in my kitchen.”