Comedian Gilbert Gottfried who has appeared in everything from Saturday Night Live and The Cosby Show to Aladdin and Hollywood Squares, also voices the animated character “Digit” on Cyberchase, the children’s math cartoon airing on PBS. Gilbert, the father of two young children, talked with us about his role on this long running shows.
GILBERT GOTTFRIED/CYBERCHASE Q&A
Q: You have an interesting trend in your career of portraying birds – how did that come about?
A: I’ve played a parrot in Aladdin, a duck in the AFLAC commercials, wore a bird costume in the Jack and the Beanstalk DVD release and I play a cyberbird in Cyberchase. I guess you could easily say – my career is for the birds!
Q: How did you formulate your “voice” and character for Digit when you first started the show? How did you see his relationship to the Cybersquad?
A: The voice of Digit just came naturally to me. And, to me, Digit is the voice of the audience at times since he’s the one who becomes easily frustrated, questions things and eventually works it all out.
Q: What are some of your favorite Cyberchase episodes as “Digit”?
A: My favorite Cyberchase episodes are the ones that center around Digit! In one of the new episodes this summer I actually have to play Digit imitating Hacker, who’s played by Christopher Lloyd. I asked producers, “So you want me to laugh like Christopher Lloyd?” You’ll see how that turned out.
Q: How do Cyberchase fans, young and old, react when they run into you in NYC?
A: Parents are always coming up to me and telling me their kids are big fans of the Cyberchase. They go on to tell me how their kids especially enjoy working out the math and logic problems. Of course, I’m always thinking to myself, “If they only could have seen my report cards when I was in school!”
Q: Well then, when your kids get older, are you worried that you won’t be able to help them with math?
A: I can’t keep up with them now and my daughter is three and my son is one.
Q: Good thing Cyberchase is around to help math-phobic parents like you.
A: Yes, very good thing. They have all these activities for parents and kids on the website. So the kids learn, the parents learn, and I learn. It’s a win for everyone.
Q: What can fans expect to see in this summer’s premiere episode, “The Hacker’s Challenge?”
A: Well, Hacker is of course wreaking havoc in cyberspace, and this time he’s threatening to turn Solaria into cybercode. Digit and the CyberSquad have to go on these problem-solving team challenges and solve Hacker’s number puzzles to save Solaria. It’s kinda like Survivor meets Cyberchase.
Q: How do Digit (your character) and his team solve one of the three puzzles?
A: I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say that Digit and his team travel to a place called the Lost Lagoon and need to solve a puzzle by catching fish. And a wild river raft ride ensues. And Digit gets wet. Very wet.
Q: What can you tell us about Cyberchase’s newest villain?
A: His name is Ledge. In one episode he turns everyone into Hacker. And in another, he takes on Hacker, forcing Hacker to join forces with the CyberSquad. The audience actually thinks Ledge is a friend of the CyberSquad at first, so there’s a little trickery going on.
Q: When does all this Cyberchase summer fun begin?
A: The new season premieres on June 25, and there are new online math challenges related to the episodes that begin the same day on the website.
Q: Anything else we should look forward to this summer?
A: Well if you really want to see more of me, you can find some behind-the-scenes videos on the Cyberchase Facebook page.
The Cyberchase Summer Challenge, featuring eight straight weeks of episodes and online games to keep kids engaged in math all summer long, premieres Friday, June 25 on PBS KIDS GO! (check local listings) and online at PBSKIDSGO.ORG.