MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Comedian Gilbert Gottfried has died at the age of 67, his family confirmed on his Twitter page.
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness,” a statement reads. “In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children.”
Gottfried died from a rare genetic muscle disease that can trigger a dangerously abnormal heartbeat. his publicist and longtime friend Glenn Schwartz said in a statement.
The family asked for people to keep “laughing as loud as possible” in his honor.
Gottfried was a fiercely independent and intentionally bizarre comedian’s comedian, as likely to clear a room with anti-comedy as he was to kill it with his jokes.
He first came to national attention with frequent appearances on MTV in its early days and with a brief stint in the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s.
Gottfried also did frequent voice work for children’s television and movies, most famously playing the parrot Iago in Disney’s “Aladdin.”
He was particularly fond of doing obscure and dated impressions for as long as he could milk them, including Groucho Marx, Bela Lugosi and Andrew “Dice” Clay.
In his early days at the club the Comedy Store in Hollywood, the managers would have him do his impression of then-little-known Jerry Seinfeld at the end of the night to get rid of lingering patrons.
Gottfried was especially beloved by his fellow comedians and performers.
“I am so sad to read about the passing of Gilbert Gottfried,” actor Marlee Matlin said on Twitter. “Funny, politically incorrect but a softie on the inside. We met many times; he even pranked me on a plane, replacing my interpreter.”
“Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander tweeted that “Gilbert Gottfried made me laugh at times when laughter did not come easily. What a gift.”
Gottfried was born in Brooklyn, the son of a hardware store owner and a stay-at-home mom. He began doing amateur standup at age 15.
“Gilbert’s brand of humor was brash, shocking and frequently offensive, but the man behind the jokes was anything but,” Gottfried’s friend and podcast co-host Frank Santopadre said in a statement. “Those who loved and him were fortunate enough to share his orbit knew a person who was sweet, sensitive, surprisingly shy and filled with a childlike sense of playfulness and wonder.”
Gottfried is survived by his wife Dara, sister Karen, 14-year-old daughter Lily and 12-year-old son Max.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.