Tuesday brought some shocking news: Gilbert Gottfried, longtime comedian with arguably the most distinctive voice in showbiz, had died. He was 67. A post from Gottfried’s family kept things vague, only saying he had passed away from a “long illness.” But now, hours later, the cause of his death has been revealed.
As per Entertainment Weekly, Glenn Schwartz, Gottfried’s longtime friend and publicist, confirmed that he died of a rare genetic muscle disease that affects the heart called recurrent ventricular tachycardia, an arrhythmia caused by myotonic dystrophy type II.
The Rare Disease Database describes myotonic dystrophy type II as an “inherited muscular dystrophy that affects the muscles and other body systems (e.g., heart, eyes, and pancreas).” It involves “prolonged muscle tensing (myotonia) as well as muscle weakness, pain, and stiffness.” Ventricular tachycardia, meanwhile, is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a heart rhythm problem that makes the heart beat faster than 100 times a minute. (A healthy heart beats between 60 and 100.)
After news of Gottfried’s passing broke, tributes came pouring in. Many shared his countless stand-up, TV, and movie appearances, including that time he epically trolled contestants on Hollywood Squares in the late ‘90s, shouting “You fool!” over and over until he finally threw them a bone.