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Gottfried Got Fired: Japan Jokes Cost Funnyman Pitch Gig

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Jokes about the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan? Too soon, and, for one prominent insurer, far enough out of line to cost one of their pitchmen his job. Aflac, the insurance company whose U.S. commercials have starred Gottfried as the voice of its iconic duck since 2000, does a large percentage of its business in Japan, and is the nation's top insurer "in terms of individual policies in force and the largest foreign insurer in Japan in terms of premium income."

The comedian "fired off a dozen jokes on [Twitter] over the weekend, all riffing in one way or another on the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami," according to Reuters. All of those Tweets have since been deleted.

While comedy and tragedy are often convivial bedfellows, Gottfried's jokes, however, did not sit well with Aflac. Even though the Japanese commercials do not use Gottfried's vocal talents, the company severed ties with the comedian yesterday.

In response, Aflac said the jokes were “lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” notes the Wall Street Journal.

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Today, Gottfried once again turned to Twitter, only this time, to apologize: "I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan," he offered. "I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families," he added.

Fellow comedy pro Joan Rivers has come forward in support of Gottfried, as has "shock jock" Howard Stern. Meanwhile, there is no indication "yet as to whether the repentant actor will get his job back. According to reports, a nationwide casting call for a new voice is still underway," says Us Weekly.

Missteps on Twitter can be costly for celebrities; earlier this month rocker Courtney Love agreed to pay a designer $430k after the singer insulted the designer on Twitter.