The most important part of Gilbert Gottfried’s 9/11 story came days AFTER the tragedy when Gilbert brought down the house at a Friar’s Club Roast of “Playboy” founder Hugh Hefner. Gottfried remembers the roast was almost called off. No one wanted to get on a plane. The whole world was still in shock. The roast was one of the first entertainment events after September 11th.
Gottfried clearly remembers his first joke: “I’ll be using my Muslim name tonight: ‘Hasan been laid’”. He says that went over fine. But he noted the audience was tense. You could cut through the tension with a knife. So Gilbert decided to tell a bad taste joke. “I have to leave early tonight. I have to catch a flight to L.A. I couldn’t get a direct flight. We have to make a stop at The Empire State Building”. The room erupted in gasps, hisses, and boos. One guy called out, “Too soon!!”. Gottfried’s first thought was he didn’t pause long enough between the set-up and the punchline. He says it felt like he was up there 200 years before he decided what to do next. He figured, “What the hell. Let’s go to the next level of hell”. Gottfried went on to tell a joke that left the audience laughing hysterically, pounding their tables. One critic later wrote, “Gottfried performed a tracheotomy on the crowd”. He made them breathe again.