Remembering Gilbert Gottfried as Clippy’s Canonical Voice

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who died this week after a long illness, has a dozen game credits to his name for reprising his role as Iago, the cowardly parrot from Aladdin, in various Disney, Kingdom Hearts, and Lego games. Less well known is that he also voiced another much more infamous character, not in games but still on PC: Clippy, the detested digital “assistant” that for several years was incorporated into Microsoft Office.

Nobody I liked Clippy. The wide-eyed paperclip, which appeared on-screen to ask if you wanted help with even basic and mundane tasks, was ranked among the 50 worst inventions by Time Magazine, earning a place alongside infamous implosions including New Coke, Agent Orange, Ford Pinto and hydrogen blimps. Clippy was so widely hated that when Microsoft finally decided to phase it out, it launched an entire ad campaign to celebrate.

The whole thing is bizarre. Microsoft isn’t just talking shit about its own product, it’s doing it with gusto, and it really rings the bell too. First, he’s fired – but not before his boss tells him he’s “the most annoying thing in computer history” as well as Microsoft Bob. Devoid of purpose and sense of self-worth, Clippy spirals.

Trying to regain his place in the office hierarchy, Clippy goes undercover in the office, trying to subliminally convince everyone that the new Office XP without Clippy sucks. The effort falls apart when an IT guy manages to convince his manager that he’s smarter than a houseplant.

The wheels really come off in part three: A family dinner goes awry when Clippy’s mom admits she uses Office XP. Clippy escapes for a sketchy, beer-soaked swim, where he is trolled by the Duke.

The humiliation is complete. There’s no redemption for Clippy, no happy ending – he’s an irritant, a useless tit, everyone knows it, and everyone is happy to see him go. And even when he finds some glimmer of purpose, the moment passes and he’s left behind – trapped in the purgatory of defunct technology, alone, unnecessary, and forgotten.

No fully forgotten, however. Clippy has really earned a second comeback in the spotlight, although it took nearly two decades to happen: absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and in 2021 Microsoft said on Twitter that bring clippy back like a Microsoft 365 emoji if the tweet has 20,000 likes. It ended up with over 171,000 likes, and Microsoft kept his promise. Unfortunately, the emoji doesn’t include the voice of Gilbert Gottfried yelling at us “let’s put together some pages of shut up!

It’s hard to imagine another actor so effectively – or so boldly – playing an insulted office assistant. Gilbert Gottfried died on April 12 of heart failure resulting from myotonic dystrophy type II, according to a Rolling Stone obituary. He was 67 years old.

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