“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Gilbert Gottfried after a long illness,” the family said. “In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor.”
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.
Gottfried is most well known for his role in Disney’s “Aladdin” as the parrot Iago and as Digit LeBoid in the PBS kid’s show “Cyberchase.”
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. 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.
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 is survived by his wife Dara, sister Karen, 14-year-old daughter Lily and 12-year-old son Max.
His final film, “Hassle at the Castle,” is currently in pre-production.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.