Earlier this week, I got the chance to sit down with Godfrey as part of our 10 Questions With... interview series. The well-known comedian and I touched on everything from xenophobia to Twitter to Shaq and may have mentioned stuff about comedy here and there.
The Daily Banter: Fairly or not, if I was going to describe you to my mom, I’d say “Godfrey….the comedian…no that’s Gilbert Godfried, this one is black…he had that dready kind of hair for a while…from the 7UP commercials back in the day” and that’s when she’d get it.
In an interview with Inside Joke you said something regarding that which I really liked; you said you were “part of American culture forever.” Do you think about your legacy a lot and what you’re going to be remembered for when you’re gone?
Godfrey: You know, not really? I don’t think about that because there are still things that I want to accomplish that I haven’t yet. I look back on the 7-Up stuff like “This is cool. I was part of American culture.” I always loved commercials growing up and I was like, “I would love to do that,” and then I did it.
And I was a spokesperson. I had done other kinds of commercials but being a spokesperson, which is not easy to get, you get to be a part of that forever.
As far as my legacy, I have no idea man. I’m still not done so who knows what’s ahead? I hope it’s success haha.
The Daily Banter: You do seem to be putting the work in, as I’ve come across a library of YouTube footage and hours of press interviews. While watching them, I noticed you have a great ability to adapt to your audience, interviewer, etc. Is that something that comes to you naturally or something that you had to learn as you were coming up?
Godfrey: I’ve always been like that. It’s from growing up in Chicago and being around different cultures and different people and different economic statuses. I’ve just been around everything so I’m always able to adjust. It doesn’t matter who I’m with, it doesn’t matter what I’m talking about, I’ll either know a little bit about it or a lot about it. I’ll know something…
The Daily Banter: Speaking of your childhood, being a son of immigrants, how do you feel about America seemingly becoming more and more xenophobic?
Godfrey: Immigrants have been coming here for a long time. The Americans that are afraid of others coming were immigrants once themselves, so they have a lot of nerve. We have a lot of nerve as a country. The only people that should have xenophobia are Native Americans. Everyone else should shut up.
The Daily Banter: I know this is a stretch in terms of a sequitur, but the grandson of a Polish immigrant, Louis CK, has introduced a new distribution model for how comedy specials are being released, and it looks like more and more comedians are jumping on board. Do you think this is the new future for comedy or is this just a fad while TV, cable, and the internet all figure out how to play nice with one another?
Godfrey: I’m not sure. Louis CK can do whatever the fuck he wants; he’s put his time in at almost 30 years. Aziz Ansari has done it too. But it’s the popular guys that are doing it. I don’t know what to say for the guys under them and the guys under them.
Hopefully if we can get to a point where we could do our own specials and not wait on Comedy Central — and I’m not saying that it’s not good to do Comedy Central or HBO — but it would be nice if we could take stand-up specials into our own hands. And that should be doable because you’re only filming one person.
I hope it gets to a point where a lot of comics who aren’t known are able to do their own specials on their own and not be “approved” by someone who doesn’t really know a thing about comedy anyway.
The goal is to have the power to do your own thing.
And now it seems like the consumer has the power. A lot of these companies are looking at YouTube and all these other things, and it’s good to see a changing of the guard a little bit. Even though it’s opened the door for more knuckleheads, there’s hope that you can create your own thing and be successful.
The Daily Banter: Along those same lines, Twitter has become a popular platform for comics. How does it help you all out?
Godfrey: It’s really helped when I'm on the road and I can actually tell people ahead of time that I'm coming to their town. Information gets to them quicker and it helps with your live performances because that’s what’s really important, putting butts in the seats. You can actually do that ahead of time. You don’t have to wait on a commercial. You can tweet months in advance, “Hey I’m coming here" and then build it up organically.
The Daily Banter: To go back to Louis CK, you were in a few episodes of Louie. That show, like Louie’s standup material, takes on a pretty dark tone at times. Now you’ve done some darker stuff that I’ve seen on YouTube, but publicly you’re a pretty light guy. Do you ever see yourself embracing your dark side with your more public material?
Godfrey: I’m not as dark as Louie comedy wise, but I’m definitely edgy. And I have anger issues. I definitely have anger issues…
The Daily Banter: I did see a video of you taking on a heckler at The Comedy Cellar and you really laid into him. Did you scare him as badly as it looked like you did?
Godfrey: I don’t know if I did…
What’s funny is that I was in the moment and I was arguing, and then I thought “This could be good for YouTube,” so I really started to exaggerate. I started going, “Yeah motherfucker, take that shit upstairs,” but deep down I just knew I was going to put this online.
I was trying to be cool as shit too. I was like, “I don’t see no “S” on your chest.”
The Daily Banter: In your 2011 special "Black By Accident" you talked about Obama and said that you don’t give a shit what Obama does in office just because he’s the first black president (PS, your impression is scary good). A few years later, how do you feel about what he’s done with his time in office?
Godfrey: Hey man, he’s made improvements. The guy got in when he was really young, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. What’s important is that Obama did to presidency what blacks had already done to sports; we just got those out of the way faster.
There was a time when we couldn’t play football or basketball, and people forget that. Every level of every job we were put out of. We had to earn our place everywhere, and it’s great to see a black man reach that position.
The Daily Banter: Speaking of powerful black men, you’re now working with Shaquille O’Neal on a new show for TruTV. I know he wrote his doctoral capstone on humor, and watching him argue with Charles Barkley is always entertaining, but is he really funny in real life?
Godfrey: He really is. He really, really is.
The Daily Banter: And since we’re at the hard-hitting journalism end of the interview, I have to ask, and I want you to be honest...Do you really love the 80’s? And when are you going to start going back even further and doing “I Love The 20’s”?
Godfrey: Hahah. I love the 60’s and 70’s more, but yeah I love 80’s.
You can’t do “I Love the 20’s” if you’re black, though. You can’t do “I Love the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s.” It’s “I Love the Late-60’s” and on.