By SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE
Times Staff Writer
Back in 2008, I interviewed Gilbert Gottfried, who is performing standup in Clearwater this Sunday, and I marveled at his balancing act. He was still the voice of the Aflac duck at the time and managed to pull off parts in Disney movies, the Nickelodeon channel and his standup special, Dirty Jokes, which was one of the rawest, filthiest collections of foul humor ever recorded.
"I like to say my career walks the line between early morning children's programming and hard-core porn," he said.
In March 2011 he crossed that line when Aflac fired him after he tweeted a series of jokes after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, such as "Japan is really advanced. They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them," and a dozen more, many of them pretty raunchy.
The mystery isn't why Aflac sacked him, but why they never saw it coming. He's a longtime purveyor of bleak humor and he's beloved for it in comedy circles.
He's the comic who, when slightly booed for telling a 9/11 joke at a Friars Club roast for Hugh Hefner just three weeks after the terrorist attacks, launched into a triumphant, wildly obscene telling of the famous joke that's chronicled in the 2005 film The Aristocrats.
"The whole audience exploded," Gottfried remembered, like a top had been let off a tea kettle. "I think that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Brace yourself for Gottfried's raw humor at 7:30 p.m. Sunday when he performs at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $25-$49. (727) 791-7400.