A day after he was fired as the voice of Aflac Inc.’s iconic duck, controversial comic Gilbert Gottfried has apologized for making a series of mean-spirited Twitter jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
“I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement Tuesday. “I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.”
Gottfried has voiced the duck in the insurer’s TV ad campaign in the U.S. since 2000, but the company said Monday that the dozen jokes he Tweeted “were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac.” A nationwide casting call to find a new voice is now underway. (He is among the stars who have sent out other low-blow messages via Twitter.)
Aflac Inc., which made its name selling cancer expense policies in Japan in the 1970s, still derives about three-quarters of its revenue in the country.
Meanwhile, Joan Rivers and Howard Stern are defending the comic.
Gottfried is no stranger to controversy.
Three weeks after 9/11, he made light of the tragedy at a Friars Club roast for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. He said that he had tried to catch a plane but couldn’t get a direct flight because “they said they have to stop off at the Empire State Building.” The joke prompted boos from the audience.