“`Don Rickles, whose verbal assaults endeared him to audiences and peers, and made him the acknowledged master of insult comedy. He was a mainstay on late-night television, and he was quite memorable in a few films. Above all, Don was a madcap pioneer of political incorrectness.
“`Rickles perfected this confrontational schtick, stand-up performers still emulate. He managed to shock audiences, without social commentary. He operated under a code as old as the Borscht Belt: Go far – ethnic jokes, sex jokes; however, make sure everyone knows it’s just for fun. He emerged in the late 1950s, a time when comics such as Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl were taking greater political risks. Ironically, one of his best pals was the milquetoast Bob Newhart.
“`For over a half a century, Rickles (above) headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, and he livened up late-night talk shows. No one was exempt from his barrage of insults, including fellow celebs as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Johnny Carson. In spite of jokes that might have inspired boycotts, Rickles was one of the most beloved folks in show business; idolized by peers, such as Joan Rivers, Louis CK, Chris Rock, and Sarah Silverman. Rickles appeared everywhere from strip clubs to the 1985 inaugural gala for President Ronald Reagan, and remained popular well after his ethnic and racial humor had become outdated.
“`Don set out to be a serious actor, enrolling in New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where one of his classmates was Jason Robards. Originally having no luck finding acting jobs, he initially supported himself by selling automobiles, life insurance, and even, cosmetics. Rickles’ movies ranged from comedies to dramas, and included Run Silent Run Deep, which starred Clark Gable; The Rat Race with Tony Curtis; Kelly’s Heroes starring Clint Eastwood; and Martin Scorsese’s Casino with Robert De Niro. Rickles also appeared in four Beach Party flicks in the 1960s, and Don provided the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the animated Toy Story films. The latter character was additionally featured in a potato chip television ad.
“`He was never able to transfer his success to a televised weekly situation comedy. The Don Rickles Show lasted just one season. C.P.O. Sharkey, in which he played an acid-tongued Navy chief petty officer, fared slightly better, airing from 1976 to 1978. The tireless comedian left behind a 10-episode series, Dinner with Don, which De Niro, Billy Crystal, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Kimmel, and others joined him to eat and chat. Distribution and a release date for the AARP Studios production have yet to be announced.
“`Rickles became an unofficial court jester of Sinatra’s Rat Pack, ridiculing his singing, his love life, and alleged ties to organized crime. He won the Emmy for Best Individual Performance in a Variety Show for the John Landis film Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. He received the Johnny Carson Award for Comedic Excellence, a fitting tribute for a comic whose big break came on The Tonight Show. Carson was a favorite target; and maybe, his biggest fan.
“`God rest the hockey puck… Don Rickles was 90.
Until next time> “never forget”