Thursday, April 06, 2017

RIP Don Rickles

So sorry to hear of the passing of Don Rickles.  He was 90 years young.  Saw him in concert just a year ago and was surprised and delighted by how many young people were in attendance.  True comic brilliance is timeless.  I never worked with him but always admired him.

Don Rickles was a true original.  As a comic he was utterly fearless.  Talk about non-PC, Rickles was an equal opportunity offender.  And no one else was doing the shtick he did, primarily because they weren't as fast or as funny at it as he was.   It was quite a trick being insulting and lovable at the same time.  The fact that Sinatra didn't have him killed speaks for his ability to walk that fine line. 

The other trick is that even though you hated yourself for laughing, he made you feel it was okay to laugh anyway. 

Underneath you just knew this was just an act and offstage he was a kind lovely man.  Which he was.

Every shock jock and insult comedian can thank Don Rickles. 

Those of a certain age remember what a special treat it was those nights when Rickles guested on THE TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson.  He'd sit on the couch and just take gratuitous potshots at Johnny and his guests.   Made no difference who.  I only wish the Pope would have guested during one of his appearances. 

He led a long life, performed right up until the end, influenced many, provided laughter for millions, and would say I'm being too sentimental and that I'm a hockey puck.

RIP Don Rickles.   I'll miss seeing you in Vegas and at High Holiday Services. 


Gary said...

Here's one small example of Don Rickles' brilliance, during a Dean Martin roast. Though these shows were tightly scripted, Dean interrupts Don and ad libs a pretty good zinger. Don expertly waits for the laughter to die down, then just kills Dean with his reply. The whole segment is funny, but this exchange begins at about 1:55.

Jim S said...

I think the thing to remember about Rickles was that he was funny when he was insulting, but you could always tell it was an act. You knew he wasn't mean like that in real life.

I don't get that from a lot of insult comedians and shock jocks. I really get the sense that they enjoy hurting others.

Seeing Rickles and Bob Newhart together was always a delight. Talk about two different comedic styles. It always amused me that they were best friends in real life.

He will be missed.

Barry Traylor said...

Damn. That is crappy news.

tavm said...

When Jim Varney died, Disney/Pixar had Blake Clark replace him as the voice of the Slinky Dog in the Toy Story films/TV specials. I can't imagine a similar voice for Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head...

Peter said...

Very sad news. I first became aware of him through his acting. He was wonderful in Scorsese's Casino. He always came across as a thoroughly decent person in interviews, as well as obviously having a sharp sense of humour. RIP

Andrew said...

Here's a great clip of Rickles interrupting a Tonight Show that had Sinatra as a guest. It looked like Carson was genuinely surprised. Who else but Rickles could get away with Mafia jokes delivered right to Sinatra's face?


MikeKPa. said...

For several years I worked the late shift (7 p.m. to 3 a.m.) at a newspaper and we always had THE TONIGHT SHOW on the little B&W TV set we had in the office. Whenever Rickles or Dangerfield came on, everything stopped for those 10 minutes because no one wanted to miss a laugh line. I admired that Rickles still had the fire in him to perform so late in his life. He was still sharp. Good for him and god bless him.

Stoney said...

Just a few months ago NBC aired the Tony Bennett 90th Birthday Special from Radio City Music Hall. It included segments of Don Rickles and Regis Philbin doing a heckling routine similar to the Muppet characters Statler & Waldorf. Rickles was as sharp as ever!

Unknown said...

One Tonight that they probably didn't save:
This would have been after the show was contracted down to 90 minutes.
Don Rickles was on the couch next to close friend Don Adams; they'd spent much of that show slagging each other out, to audience roars.
In the final segment of the evening, Johnny brought out Criswell, to do his infamous Predictions.
He used to bring Cris out during the first 15 minutes, which is how I know this appearance came after that.
On this occasion, Criswell's Predictions were even nearer the knuckle than usual; Rickles and Adams, over on the couch, were in hysterics from the start. Carson was clearly counting on the two Dons to put Mr. C in his place with barbs.
The problem was that a number of Criswell's mots that night wound up getting bleeped.
The director stayed in long shot to keep the Dons on camera, which made lip-reading impossible.
Early on Rickles responded to one of the Predictions with "What a Goddamn shame!"
This was in response to one of the bleeps; I have no idea what the shame was.
After this, the director went in close on Rickles and Adams, who were sobbing in each others's arms, while nearly everything else Criswell said was bleeped.
I thought at least one of the Dons was going to stroke out.
I'm pretty sure that this was Criswell's final Carson appearance (possibly just coincidence ...).

Aaron said...

He had a great long life but it's still a shame. The end of an era. He may not have been the most thought provoking or the most profound of comedians, but to my mind, he was the absolute funniest. I've laughed at nobody harder than I've laughed at Don Rickles.

Fusillijohnny said...

There is the legendary Letterman appearance when Denzel Washington was the lead guest and wanted to stay on the panel to see what Rickles would do in the deuce spot. They bring Don out to March Of The Toreadors, audience going crazy and he sits down turns to Washington and says "Trouble with the luggage?" We can't laugh like that anymore. Maybe only Don had that licence. He earned it. Alev asholom

B Smith said...

Friday Question: I watched the "Abyssinia Henry" episode of MASH last night (one watches it again, and hopes that maybe _this_ time, Henry's plane won't go down), and wondered if, as a screenwriter yourself, you're able to detach yourself from the nuts and bolts of writing and view it as we "civilians" do, or are you constantly analysing it in your head, seeing how the writers went from A to B, considering how you might have written it etc?

Ed from South Bend said...

My favorite Rickles moment of all time - and man, there were soooo many phenomenal bits (His portrayal of Crapgame in (Kelly's Heroes was just inspired) to remember:

He's doing stand-up on The Tonight Show floor. He's killing it and then he starts in on how wonderful it is to see so many different types of people (ethnicities) in the audience. He points ostensibly to an Asian man. "So good to have you here, sir. Wait. You look familiar. Didn't I shoot your uncle out of a tree in '52?"

I never saw Carson react in quite the same way in my decades of watching him. He was crying with laughter, but he was literally cringing all at once. I never laughed so hard/deeply in the instant after anything I have ever seen as I did then.

God rest you in peace, Don. Thank you.

Lynn said...

No one made fun of Jews so well. And no Jew was offended by it.

Unknown said...

My favorite Rickles story as told by Larry King. Sinatra and Rickles are in a club one night and Rickles asks Sinatra if he can do him a big favor. Seems Rickles had just started dating a woman he really wanted to impress so he asks Sinatra if he can drop by their table and just say hello. Sinatra says sure. About an hour later, Sinatra walks over to the table and says, "Hi Don, how ya doing?" Rickles immediately gets incensed and says, "Frank, get outta here. Can't you see I'm busy?"

ELS said...

And the story is well known how Sinatra saved Rickles life one night.

He told his entourage, "Okay, boys, he's had enough."

RIP Mr. Warmth, you hockey puck you.

VincentS said...

I grew up on Don Rickles and never tired of his act. Yes, he was an original. I will miss him.

Anonymous said...

Forty-five years ago this month, I was a high school junior and with a group of about 20 students and 4 teachers, we traveled to DC, NYC, and Philadelphia for the annual Junior/Senior trip. Months before we left, my best friend had her dad write for tickets to The Tonight Show (It was still in NYC). We took two teachers with us and were thrilled at the chance to see Carson in person. The best news, for me anyway, was the main guest...Don Rickles. Since they filmed the show in 'real time', we realized after the first commercial break that THIS was the real show. Our stomach muscles hurt for days because Mr. Rickles would get up into the audience and just attack.

With his passing, I have lost all of my childhood comedian idols.

Rest easy, you old hockey puck.

Pam, St. Louis

Jahn Ghalt said...

NPR played the first ten seconds of Don Rickles' Emmy acceptance speech. See youtube here - speech starts around 2:40.

Jeff Maxwell said...

With the support of Jack Eglash, the Entertainment Director of the Sahara Hotel, Mr. Rickles paid his dues and honed his craft in the hotel lounge. He never failed to pack the room with everybody from tourists to the other entertainers on the Vegas Strip.

Whenever a comedian shows up on a talk show, I'm always a little nervous that their bit, jokes, act won't work. I never had that with Don Rickles. He never bombed or failed to hit his funny sweet spot.

Ever so close to the end of an era. I hate losing all that funny just when the world needs it so desperately.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

One thing that differentiate Don Rickles from many other comedians of the era (and any era)... He wrote his own material. It was him being him.

Gary West said...

Loved Rickles during his heyday (late 1960's into the 1980's) but I struggled watching him these past 10 or 15 years. Sometimes, it's just best to take a bow and go out. Jerry Lewis - same thing. Ditto Regis Philbin. Watching these guys in their prime - and then, recently, is day-and-night. Yes, I get they're still with us (RIP Rickles), but, they're not the same. You gotta know when to fold. I'm sure readers can think of others.

Liggie said...

I particularly remember Rickles' speech at a Clint Eastwood lifetime achievement award show. "Clint, I say this from the bottom of my heart . .. you're a terrible actor." And while the audience and Clint were cracking up, "Go back to Rawhide!"

As someone with an unusual ethnic background (Southeast Asian and Eastern European), I wonder how he would have insulted me.

thirteen said...

One of the funniest things I ever saw on Carson's show was Don Rickles paired with Little Richard. Richard was in full flamboyance mode, and all Rickles had to do was sit there and nod and smile and, occasionally, look horrified. Richard kept shouting "There's a hole in the bucket!" for some reason, Rickles would react, and the whole place just went nuts. I couldn't breathe, I was laughing so hard.

I've looked it up: Wednesday 28 April 1971. That's at least two forevers ago. RIP Don, and thank you.

Jahn Ghalt said...

I caught the last five minutes of Fresh Air thie afternoon - a repeat of some previous interviews with Rickles and Terry Gross.

Transcript and audio here:

Mike Barer said...

He was one of the last of an era. Makes me feel old.