Aflac (AFL) fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who does the voice of the insurer's trademark duck in its ads, for making 12 jokes on Twitter about the tsunami in Japan. While Gottfried's cracks were certainly in poor taste, this is an act of hypocrisy on Aflac's part -- in a career built almost entirely on deliberately causing offense, his jokes about Japan are among the least offensive he's ever made. (Note to readers, offensive and potentially NSFW material lies ahead.) Aflac chief marketing officer Michael Zuna said:
There is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times.But Aflac's decision is more likely a cynical reaction to the fact that 75 percent of its business is in Japan. For the record, here are two of the jokes Gottfried tweeted (he's since deleted them and apologized):
"I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said 'is there a school in this area.' She said 'not now, but just wait.'"They are neither funny nor appropriate, but that's not the point. Aflac has known for years that Gottfried has told much more offensive jokes than this. Consider:
"Japan called me. They said 'maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they're all sinking.'"
- It was Gottfried who, only three weeks after the attacks, began making jokes about Sept. 11, 2001.
- In 2008, Gottfried appeared at the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget to deliver his infamous -- and frankly hilarious -- "Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990" bit:
- He's also well known for delivering one of the more disgusting versions of "The Aristocrats" joke.
Is it too cynical to take this one step further and suggest that now Aflac has several years of tape on which Gottfried shrieks the word "Aflac" like a duck, that it no longer needs his services? Aflac has used the Gottfried duck since 1999, and now says it will launch a search for a new voice. I'm guessing that voice will be cheaper than Gottfried's.
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