After the news of Gilbert Gottfried’s death on Tuesday, fans are celebrating all kinds of obscure work he contributed to or appeared in over the years. With his iconic, squawking voice, Gottfried was a beloved actor and brilliant stand-up comedian—and the voice of the most hated cartoon office supply of a generation: Microsoft’s Clippy.
As spotted by Phil Salvador, library director at the Video Game History Foundation, Gottfried played the voice of Clippy in a 2001 Microsoft ad campaign for the launch of Windows XP. In the ad, a highly annoyed business executive calls Clippy “the most annoying thing in computer history.” Microsoft Office XP, which Clippy puts together as meaning “ex-paperclip,” will help users do all the things Clippy never could, the ad promises—meaning Clippy gets laid off.
Hearing Gottfried belt out an ear-bleeding “It looks like you’re writing a letter!” makes Clippy’s entire existence as the widely hated proto-Siri make so much more sense. It’s perfect casting. The ad is Microsoft’s self-lampooning of its own despised creation, with quotes from people griping about how irritating Clippy is when they’re trying to use Office.
The campaign launched in 2001, along with a website dedicated to Clippy’s woes. An archive of the site is a perfect time capsule of this period on the internet, including a (now busted) Flash game, a reference to “all your base are belong to us,” a dig at the 2000 presidential election’s “dimpled chads,” a joke about the 1998 book Who Moved My Cheese? and the acronym ROTFL.
“My name is Clippy, and Office XP has me sweating (and rusting),” the website says. “Why? Because Office XP works so easily that it's made Office Assistants like me useless. Obsolete. And, I'm told, hideously unattractive. They even cut my pay, despite the fact that I work for free!”
CNET covered the ad campaign a few months later, and talked to several people who bemoaned Clippy’s cursed existence: “I have tried several of the variations of the 'animated helper,' but I have found them all too annoying to leave on,” one said.
Add to the list of losses we’re feeling from Gottfried’s death: Now we’ll never know what he thought about Clippy getting pregnant.