Don Rickles
American comedian, actor
Don Rickles
Donald Jay "Don" Rickles is an American stand-up comedian and actor. A frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Rickles has acted in comedic and dramatic roles, but is best known as an insult comic.
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Today in Entertainment: Late-night says goodbye to Don Rickles; Scarlett Johansson calls Ivanka Trump 'cowardly'
LATimes - 16 days
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LATimes article
Remembering Don Rickles, The Insult Comic Who Made Fun Of Everything
NPR - 17 days
Rickles, who died yesterday, mined racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes for laughs. "I crossed the line when nobody else could do it," he once said. Originally broadcast in 2008, 1998 and 2007.
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NPR article
Master insult comic Don Rickles dead at age 90 in Los Angeles - 17 days
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Don Rickles, the master insult comic who created laughs with ridicule and sarcasm in a decades-long career that earned him the facetious nickname "Mr. Warmth," died on Thursday at his Los Angeles home from kidney failure, his publicist said. He was 90.
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Celebrities react to Don Rickles' death
ABC News - 17 days
The comedy world reacts to the death of legendary comedian Don Rickles.
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ABC News article
Watch Don Rickles in action as he lobs zingers at his friends and admirers
LATimes - 18 days
It’s no surprise that the seemingly prickly Don Rickles, who died Thursday at 90, earned adulation for his unfiltered brand of insult humor. The late comic turned his apparent distaste and disregard for his fellow man into a routine bit, taking jabs at race, religion and egos with reckless abandon. ...
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LATimes article
Don Rickles gets an A-list round of goodbyes: 'Make God laugh ...'
LATimes - 18 days
Transcending generations, admirers remember the insult comic's legacy.
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LATimes article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Don Rickles
  • 2016
    As of 2016, despite being impeded by multiple surgeries following a bout with necrotizing fasciitis in 2013, Rickles continues touring across the United States.
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  • 2015
    On May 11, 2015, Rickles appeared as a guest on one of the final episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman.
    More Details Hide Details He also made a cameo in the show Grandfathered.
  • 2014
    On May 28, 2014, Rickles was honored by Spike TV's "One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles".
    More Details Hide Details Recorded live at New York City's Apollo Theater, Jerry Seinfeld was the master of ceremonies for the two-hour special. Live monologs were performed by Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Tracy Morgan, Brian Williams, Regis Philbin, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Recorded segments included bits from Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Kimmel and Eddie Murphy. The show was praised by audiences and critics. At 90, he is still a frequent guest on late night talk shows, including the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
  • 2011
    In 2011, Rickles reunited with his Casino-co-star Joe Pesci in a Snickers advertisement highlighting the actors known for their "short fuses."
    More Details Hide Details Rickles also played the late husband of Elka (Betty White) on the TV Land original comedy Hot in Cleveland— a "surprise" because his character was thought to be dead. Rickles remains active on the stand-up comedy scene and has no plans to retire, as he recently stated in an interview. "I'm in good health. I'm working better than I ever have. The audiences are great. Why should I retire? I'm like a fighter. The bell rings and you come out and fight. My energy comes alive. And I still enjoy it."
  • 2010
    In 2010, he appeared in a commercial during Super Bowl XLIV as a talking rose and appeared on the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on CBS TV on June 27, 2010.
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  • 2009
    In 2009, Rickles appeared on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and met Griffin's mother, Maggie, to fulfill one item on Maggie's "bucket list".
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  • 2007
    Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, a documentary about Rickles directed by John Landis, made its debut on HBO on December 2, 2007.
    More Details Hide Details Rickles won an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, besting a number of notable comics, including David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. To this Rickles remarked, "Stephen Colbert's a funny man, but he's too young. He has got plenty of time to win awards, but this may be my last year and I think that I made it count. On second thought it was probably just a mercy award for an old man." Rickles reprised his role of Mr. Potato Head for Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction at Disney California Adventure Park, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Toy Story 3.
    Rickles' memoir, titled Rickles' Book, was released on May 8, 2007 by Simon & Schuster.
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    In February 2007, Rickles made a cameo appearance as himself in a strange, recurring dream sequence woven through an episode titled "Sub Conscious" of the CBS dramatic series, The Unit.
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  • 1998
    In 1998, he portrayed a film theater manager in Dirty Work and voiced Cornwall, one of the heads of a two-headed dragon, in Quest for Camelot.
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  • 1995
    In 1995, he played Billy Sherbert in Casino, and voiced Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story (1995) and reprised his role in Toy Story 2 (1999).
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  • 1993
    In 1993, Rickles starred in another short-lived sitcom Daddy Dearest, with Richard Lewis.
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  • 1992
    In 1992, he was cast in Innocent Blood, directed by John Landis.
    More Details Hide Details In his memoir, Rickles wrote that he recalled that Landis was once a "Production Assistant" to Brian G. Hutton during the filming of Kelly's Heroes. During the filming of Innocent Blood, Rickles would kid Landis by ordering him to get coffee or to run other errands befitting his one-time "gofer" status.
  • 1990
    In 1990, he appeared in the second season of Tales from the Crypt in the episode "The Ventriloquist's Dummy".
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  • 1985
    In 1985, when Frank Sinatra was asked to perform at Ronald Reagan's Second Inaugural Ball, he stipulated he would not perform unless Rickles was allowed to perform with him.
    More Details Hide Details Rickles considers this performance the highlight of his career.
  • 1976
    In 1976-1978, he starred in C.P.O. Sharkey, which lasted two seasons.
    More Details Hide Details The series is primarily remembered for the cigarette box incident when Johnny Carson did an impromptu surprise visit during an episode's taping because he was "incensed" Rickles broke his cigarette box while he chatted with Bob Newhart (who was sitting in for Carson as the guest host of the The Tonight Show) on the previous night's show. The incident was often replayed in Tonight Show retrospectives and was considered a highlight of the 1970s era of the series. Rickles occasionally appeared as a panelist on Hollywood Squares and was depicted in comic book form by Jack Kirby during his work on the Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen series. In the early 1980s, Rickles began performing with Steve Lawrence in concerts in Las Vegas. In 1983, the duo co-hosted Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders, an imitation of TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes.
  • 1973
    Starting in 1973, Rickles became a popular comedian appearing on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials.
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  • 1972
    In 1972, he starred in The Don Rickles Show, which lasted for 13 episodes.
    More Details Hide Details He also starred in a series of television specials. In his memoir, Rickles acknowledged a scripted sitcom was not well-suited to his ad-lib style of performing.
  • 1970
    In 1970, Rickles had a notable role as Crapgame in Kelly's Heroes, sharing the marquee poster with co-stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Carroll O'Connor.
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  • 1968
    In 1968, Rickles released a live comedy album, Hello, Dummy!, which reached #54 on The Billboard 200 album chart.
    More Details Hide Details The same year he starred in his own variety show on ABC, The Don Rickles Show, with comedy writer Pat McCormick as his sidekick. The show lasted one season. During the 1960s, Rickles made guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Mothers-in-Law, Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show and I Dream of Jeannie.
    An early Carson-Rickles Tonight highlight occurred in 1968 when, while two Japanese women treated Carson to a bath and massage by foot, Rickles walked onto the set.
    More Details Hide Details Rickles also made frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Show and became a fixture on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials which continued until 1984, where Rickles became the butt of jokes by comedians including Foster Brooks.
  • 1965
    On March 14, 1965, Rickles married Philadelphia native Barbara Sklar.
    More Details Hide Details They have two children: Mindy and Larry Rickles. According to Rickles' memoir, his grandchildren, Ethan and Harrison Mann, are much more impressed by his role as Mr. Potato Head than by any of his other achievements. Although a lifelong Democrat, he performed at the inaugurations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush with his friend Frank Sinatra. Rickles considers comedian Bob Newhart to be his best friend, an unusual partnership since Newhart's low-key, hesitant, self-effacing comic persona is almost completely the opposite of Rickles' high energy, rapid-fire act. Rickles and Newhart appeared together on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 24, 2005, the Monday following Johnny Carson's death, reminiscing about their many guest appearances on Carson's show, which included footage of the "cigarette box incident". The two also appeared together on the television sitcom Newhart, and for previous episodes of The Tonight Show, where Newhart or Rickles were guest-hosts. Rickles, Newhart and their wives often vacation together.
    He subsequently began appearing more frequently on television talk shows, first appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965.
    More Details Hide Details He became a frequent guest and guest host, appearing more than 100 times on The Tonight Show during Carson's era.
  • 1958
    In 1958, Rickles made his film debut in a serious part in Run Silent, Run Deep with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.
    More Details Hide Details Throughout the 1960s, he often appeared on television in sitcoms and dramatic series. Rickles guest-starred in Get Smart as Sid, an old war buddy of Max who comes to stay with him. In an episode of the 1960s drama series Run for Your Life, Rickles played a distressed comedian whose act culminates when he strangles a patron while imploring the patron to "Laugh!" Rickles took a dramatic turn in the low budget Roger Corman film X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes as a carnival barker out to exploit the title character (played by Ray Milland). Rickles appeared in the popular Beach Party film series. He recalled in his 2007 memoir that at a White House dinner, Barbara Bush teased him about his decision to appear in those films. Rickles' agent, Jack Gilardi, was married to Annette Funicello when Rickles was cast in the Beach Party films.
  • 1946
    He was honorably discharged in 1946.
    More Details Hide Details Two years later, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and then played bit parts on television. Frustrated by a lack of acting work, Rickles began performing stand-up comedy in clubs in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. He became known as an insult comedian by responding to his hecklers. The audience enjoyed these insults more than his prepared material, and he incorporated them into his act. When he began his career in the early 1950s, he started calling ill-mannered members of the audience "hockey pucks". His style was similar to that of an older insult comic, Jack E. Leonard, though Rickles denies Leonard influenced his style. While working in a Miami Beach nightclub known as "Murray Franklin's" early in his career, he spotted Frank Sinatra and remarked to him, "I just saw your movie, The Pride and the Passion and I want to tell you, the cannon's acting was great." He added, "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!" Sinatra, whose pet name for Rickles was "bullet-head," enjoyed him so much that he encouraged other celebrities to see Rickles' act and be insulted by him. Sinatra's support helped Rickles become a popular headline performer in Las Vegas. During a Dean Martin Roast special, Rickles was among those who took part in a roast of Sinatra.
  • 1926
    Rickles was born Donald Jay Rickles in the New York City borough of Queens on May 8, 1926 to Max Rickles (1897-1953), who emigrated in 1903 with his parents Joseph and Frances Rickles (Richters) from Kaunas, Lithuania (then in the Russian Empire), and Etta (Feldman) Rickles (1901-1984), born in New York to immigrant parents from the Austrian Empire.
    More Details Hide Details His family was Jewish and spoke Yiddish at home. Rickles grew up in the Jackson Heights area. After graduating from Newtown High School, Rickles enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served during World War II on the motor torpedo boat tender USS Cyrene (AGP-13) as a seaman first class.
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