Gilbert Gottfried, the late comedian, died of myotonic dystrophy type II.

Gilbert-Gottfried
Gilbert Gottfried, the late comedian, died of myotonic dystrophy type II. Credit: Noam Galai/Wireimage

A look into the comedian’s cardiac issue, which was caused by a genetic illness.

Gilbert Gottfried, a comedian noted for his distinctive voice, died at the age of 67, his family confirmed on social media on Tuesday (April 12).

Gottfried’s family made no mention of the reason of death, simply that he died “after a protracted illness.” According to Rolling Stone, Gottfried’s friend and publicist Glenn Schwartz revealed in a separate statement that he had recurrent ventricular tachycardia, a sort of irregular cardiac rhythm, caused to a genetic disorder called myotonic dystrophy type II.

Myotonic Dystrophy Type II

According to the National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, myotonic dystrophy type II is a type of muscular dystrophy, a group of degenerative diseases that cause muscles to weaken and lose mass over time (GARD).

Symptoms of the genetic disorder often appear in early adulthood, between the ages of 20 and 30, and the disease is characterised by myotonia, or prolonged muscle contractions that make it difficult to relax a stiff muscle after it has been tense.

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According to GARD, the condition is caused by mutations in the CNBP gene. According to the protein sequence database Uniprot, CNBP provides instructions for constructing a protein that attaches to DNA and RNA, DNA’s chemical cousins; by binding to these genetic components, CNBP helps govern which proteins the cells create and when.

According to GARD, a person only needs one copy of the defective gene to develop myotonic dystrophy type II, indicating that the disease is inherited in a “autosomal dominant” form.

The protein encoded by CNBP is found mostly in the heart and skeletal muscle. According to GARD, when the CNBP gene is mutated, cells produce defective messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that clump together, interfere with the creation of other proteins, and therefore degrade the function of muscle cells, resulting in signs of muscular dystrophy.

Myotonic dystrophy type II most typically affects muscles in the neck, fingers, elbows, and hips, producing pain and weakness. According to GARD, the illness can also impair muscles in the face and ankles, and in rare cases, it can cause problems in the cardiac conduction system, the electrical system that controls heartbeat.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, these conduction problems are caused by injury to cardiac muscle cells, which causes the tissue to scar and interrupts the electrical channels that usually direct the movement of the heart’s chambers.

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What did Gilbert Gottfried suffer from?

Schwartz stated that Gottfried suffered from ventricular tachycardia, a form of irregular cardiac rhythm, or arrhythmia, that happens when the heart’s lower chambers pulse too quickly. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this irregular rhythm impairs the heart’s ability to supply an adequate amount of oxygenated blood to the body.

Ventricular tachycardia isn’t necessarily hazardous in short, seconds-long bursts. However, if the abnormal heart rhythm continues for an extended period of time, it can cause lightheadedness and fainting due to a drop in blood pressure, as well as cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation, an extremely rapid and life-threatening type of arrhythmia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

GARD adds that people with myotonic dystrophy type II may require an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which is a battery-powered device that detects and stops irregular heartbeats using electrical pulses, to control the arrhythmia associated with their condition.

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He was well-known for his raspy voice and blue comedy.

Though his grating tone has become his trademark, it was not yet his signature when he started as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” for one season from 1980 to 1981, one of just a few seasons without Lorne Michaels at the helm. Throughout the 1980s, he largely did stand-up comedy and was a regular on Howard Stern’s radio show.

Though he had a few film and television credits in the 1980s, notably the successful sequel “Beverly Hills Cop 2,” Gottfried’s stardom did not increase until the 1990s. Throughout the decade, he used his trademark scream-speak in roles such as “Aladdin,” as the mouthy parrot Iago, and live-action comedy such as “Problem Child,” in which he played a conniving adoption agency employee.

In the 2000s and 2010s, Gottfried appeared as a competitor or “talking head” on reality shows such as “Celebrity Wife Swap” and as a voice actor on “Family Guy.” (He had a wife swap with the late Alan Thicke.)

Gottfried’s style in stand-up comedy, on the other hand, was filthy and delivered at a loud decibel (maybe you’ve heard him tell the notoriously blue “Aristocrats” joke). He also addressed incredibly delicate issues square on, recounting in a 2012 opinion article for CNN a 9/11 joke he delivered during a roast of Hugh Hefner in Manhattan just days after the attacks (his audience did not enjoy it).

In the same piece, he characterised tweets he sent on the 2011 Japanese disaster as “silly” and “stupid,” despite the fact that those tweets led Aflac, for whom he provided the voice of its mascot duck, to terminate him.
“I’ve always felt comedy and sadness are housemates,” he wrote at the time for CNN.

Gottfried’s avant-garde blue stuff fit perfectly in during multiple Comedy Central roasts of celebrities, including former President Donald Trump in 2011.

Even when he wasn’t on film as much, he made his voice available to audiences. He’d been interviewing comic and entertainment figures on his podcast, “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast,” for for a decade. Earlier this month, a new episode was released.

Numerous fellow comedians and Gottfried’s former co-stars paid tribute on social media.

“Gilbert Gottfried was never not funny,” wrote comic Dane Cook. “He was a great guy who was always cheerful and made a lot of people happy.”

“Gilbert Gottfried made me laugh when it was difficult for me to laugh. What a wonderful gift, “In a tweet, actor Jason Alexander expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation.

“On a roll, nobody was funnier than @RealGilbert,” writer and director Judd Apatow said. “He has the ability to send you into convulsive hysteria. He was also the nicest man I’d ever met. His podcast is a comic goldmine. What a tragic loss.”

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