Don Rickles Remembered

“If I were to insult people and mean it, that wouldn’t be funny.” – Don Rickles

And there you have it, the secret to his success. These days everybody wants to be an insult comic—just go to the comments of any web article and watch everyone sharpening their verbal knives, hurling insults, name-calling with glee. They all think they’re original, and they all think they’re funny.

“Who picked your clothes—Stevie Wonder?” – Don Rickles

Don Rickles was way ahead of them, plus he was funnier. He got away with it, too. He didn’t care about your race, sex, religion—he just wanted to know what they were so he could make fun of you.

“My mother was a Jewish General Patton” – Don Rickles

That’s Don on the left, insulting the Japanese during WW II.

How did he get away with it? Easy: He didn’t mean it. Jokes today just seem mean-spirited, like you’re not trying to be funny so much as getting a dig in.

“Compared to what some of the young comics use for material today, I’m a priest.” – Don Rickles

But with Rickles you got the impression it was all an act—that he never meant a thing that he said. That he was—although he’d deny it—secretly a nice guy. And by all accounts of those who knew him, it was true. That, as he admitted himself, was the trick—to be likeable and liked before you start with the insults.

“Oh my God, look at you. Anyone else hurt in the accident?” – Don Rickles

R.I.P. Don Rickles, 90 years old, World War II veteran and, as Johnny Carson put it, “Mr. Warmth”.

“If I took therapy, the doctor would quit. He’d just pick up the couch and walk out of the room.”

(To Johnny Carson) “That’s it, laugh it up. You’re making $50 million a year and your poor parents are back in Nebraska eating locusts for dinner.”

 

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8 thoughts on “Don Rickles Remembered”

  1. He was great on the "Get Smart" show. He was supposed to be one for only one episode but he had so many great ad libs, which encouraged Don Adams to ad lib and soon they had enough material for two shows..

  2. He was great on the “Get Smart” show. He was supposed to be one for only one episode but he had so many great ad libs, which encouraged Don Adams to ad lib and soon they had enough material for two shows.

    1. I was also a fan of his show “CPO Sharkey” — although the funniest moment from that show was when Johnny Carson walked across the hallway from the Tonight Show and invaded while Rickles was in the middle of taping.

  3. Wow! I didn’t know he died. I loved his humor as so many did. The art of making insults funny is a talent few people have. It is too easy to slide into the mean spirited category which always puts my teeth on edge. Thanks for writing a tribute to this great funny man, Mark.

    1. You’re welcome! What I liked about him is that no matter how nasty his words seemed, he never came off as being really mean-spirited. I’m afraid he was one of the very few left of the old-school I loved so much … maybe Bob Newhart, and that’s it.

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