The Legendary Comedy And Longevity Of Don Rickles

Mister_Hockey_PuckDon Rickles is regarded as a living legend of comedy. An icon of a time when the “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford) ruled Las Vegas.

The only reason he is considered with such reverence is because he has lived so long. It’s amazing that he is 89-years-old and still performs on stage. He has future gigs scheduled as far ahead as May 2016 if he is lucky enough to be alive to attend.

I mean no disrespect. I adore the man. I just don’t think he would be so exalted had he passed away, say, in the 1980s. He was the Howard Stern of his day. He insulted everybody. He was politically incorrect before the term “politically incorrect” came into existence.

His acting skills were marginal at best. He had his own sit-com in 1972 which lasted only thirteen episodes. He later starred in C.P.O. Sharkey that ran two seasons. He made guest appearances on many classic TV shows such as The Addams Family, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Dream Of Jeannie but none which would be considered notable.

His best television appearances, in my opinion, occurred on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. One in particular was when Rickles was on while Bob Newhart was filling in for Johnny as guest host. Rickles accidentally broke a cigarette case on the desk and, the next night, Johnny noticed the damaged container. He was told by band leader Doc Severinsen that Rickles did it the night before so Johnny took off to the adjacent studio, where Rickles was taping an episode of C.P.O. Sharkey, and confronted the surprised Rickles about it.

He appeared in movies (Kelly’s Heroes, Beach Blanket Bingo, Casino) but without Academy Award recognition. His own grandchildren know him more for being the voice of Toy Story’s Mr. Potato Head than for anything else in his career.

It’s remarkable that here he is nowadays with his own web site featuring his own mobile app, his own twitter feed and selling DVDs of his Sharkey program as well as listings of upcoming performance locations.

To see an interview of a subdued Don Rickles, without all of the yelling and insulting of his known “shtick” act, catch him on his 2007 book-tour guest appearance on The Charlie Rose show. He speaks openly and honestly about his mother, about Johnny Carson, about Frank Sinatra and his friendship with colleague Bob Newhart.

The 2007 HBO special, “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” helps to celebrate his notable life and celebrity by showing what it’s like behind the scenes of his performances.

His 2014 “One Night Only” tribute on Spike TV at the Apollo in Harlem was a delightful broadcast in his honor.

He has outlasted so many comedians who came after him: Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, John Belushi, Sam Kinison, John Candy, Robin Williams.

Rickles married late in life, at age 39, in 1965. He and his wife Barbara had two children. His son, Larry, died in 2011 from pneumonia.

He loves baseball and especially the Los Angeles Dodgers. He used to poke fun mercilessly at former Dodger Don Zimmer who once said that his most sweetest revenge was, as he and Rickles got older, they began to resemble one another.

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