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What Did Gilbert Gottfried's Real Voice Actually Sound Like?

Undeniably one of the most recognizable voices in comedy, the late Gilbert Gottfried was a singular talent whose whirlwind career took him from the stages of "Saturday Night Live" to the magical worlds of classic Disney films. And, in one of the best casting decisions an insurance company has ever made, he even voiced the Aflac duck in commercials before his sense of humor got him fired from the gig.

Gottfried's defining trait was always his voice, that instantly recognizable screech tinged with a thick helping of New York patois. Whether he showed up in live-action or voiced a cartoon, he was instantly identifiable via his high-pitched, persistently breathless grate. Gottfried most famously voiced the bird Iago in Disney's "Aladdin," but his iconic voice was often put to less family-friendly ends, such as when John Oliver of "Last Week Tonight" punished his U.K. audience by having the legendary comedian read legal documents and Bigfoot erotica.

Though that pained voice became part and parcel of Gottfried's persona, it was a delivery he honed over the years as part of his comedy. His regular voice, deployed in his private life, is something many folks may never have heard, and the difference between it and his stage voice is night and day.

Gilbert Gottfried could be surprisingly soft-spoken

In a snippet of "The Howard Stern Show" uploaded to YouTube in 2009, Stern treated listeners of his popular radio program to a sample of Gilbert Gottfried's real voice, a message Gottfried had left on Stern's answering machine. In the clip, Gottfried can be heard asking the radio host for details about an event that he was apparently invited to. "Just tell me what exactly is going on tomorrow," the "SNL" alum says, in a startlingly normal tone of voice. "You know, who is going to be there and everything like that."

Gottfried's normal speaking voice is notable for how nondescript it sounds in comparison to the honking goose of a delivery for which he was known. Introducing the clip, Stern warns, "This is Gilbert's real voice. Just as scary, but it's a whole different guy." Indeed, Gottfried's message to Stern is quiet-spoken, casual, and entirely devoid of vocal fry. It's a voice that wouldn't feel out of place on an NPR podcast and sounds nothing like his iconic film characters. "That's serial killer Gilbert," Stern joked.

In a 2017 profile of Gottfried from the Miami New Times, "The Aristocrats" star revealed that he hadn't purposefully developed his signature spittle-heavy speech pattern, but rather had found it naturally as he honed his craft. "I've been doing it for such a long time, that one day you wake up and you go, 'Oh, this is what your delivery is.' It's like going up to someone walking down the street and asking, 'How did you develop that walk?'" Gottfried said.