It began with an ill-timed joke. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who has served as the squawking voice of the Aflac duck in television commercials since 2000, rather unwisely posted a couple of one-liners to his Twitter account right after the tsunami hit Japan. Sample joke: “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.’ ” On an offensive scale of 1 to 10, that’s about a 5. On a funny scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 3.5, tops. It’s not that you can’t make fun of a natural disaster that wipes out 18,000 people, it’s just that ... well, why the hell would you want to? This isn’t the first time Gottfried has stuck his foot in his mouth, either. He famously made jokes about 9/11 just three weeks after the incident. Those didn’t go over so well, either.
Unsurprisingly, Gottfried’s ill-timed japes raised the ire of his employers over at Aflac. Turns out that, in a massive case of corporate whodathunk?, Aflac gets 75 percent of its business from Japan. Whoops. Naturally, in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami combo pack, the No. 1 foreign insurance company in Japan had no interest in offending its millions of Asian clients. It dumped Gottfried from the payroll faster than CBS dropped Charlie Sheen.
You’d think most corporations in the midst of such a scandal would want to sweep it under the rug. Not Aflac. Within a week of firing Gottfried, the company rushed out a new television commercial featuring the Aflac duck in a parody of old silent movie serials. Gone is the duck’s familiar cry of “Aflac!” It’s now replaced by some jaunty piano music and a title card reading—what else?—“Aflac!” At the end of the commercial, it’s announced that Aflac is looking for a new voice for the duck. Could it be you?
Interested parties have until midnight on April 1 (April Fools’ Day, it must be noted) to submit 30-second audio or video files with their best “Aflac squawk.” Files can be downloaded to quackaflac.com. Among the responsibilities listed for the new voice of the Aflac duck are the ability to “create innovative and original quacking that helps consumers understand how Aflac is different from major medical.” There’s also a little stipulation in the rules about inspiring trust and behaving ethically. Presumably, laughing at tsunami victims is not considered ethical. No word on what the gig will pay, but the duck does have his own Twitter account. Sample tweet: “Still got a bit of a frog in my throat (that’s the downside of #pondlife).” Oh, that Aflac duck, he’s as funny as Gilbert Gottfried.