Tribute: Don Rickles

Posted on April 7, 2017 at 8:00 am

Copyright Disney 2014
Copyright Disney 2014
We mourn the loss of comedian/actor Don Rickles, who has died at age 90. He was one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time, at the top of his profession for well over half a century. In the Washington Post, Matt Schudel wrote:

Mr. Rickles did not tell jokes with traditional punch lines, did not make topical comments about the news and did not use crude profanity. Every show was spontaneous, built largely around his caustic observations about members of the audience….Short, bald and stocky, Mr. Rickles walked on the stage “looking like a snapping turtle surfacing in a pond,” as a New Yorker profile put it in 2004. He glanced around the room at his prey. Overweight people, men accompanied by younger women, racial and ethnic minorities — all were subject to his relentless barrage of smart-aleck buckshot.

Mr. Rickles’s chief comedic weapons were exaggeration and ridicule, deployed in a rapid, sharp-tongued style that stacked one quip on top of another until audiences were helpless with laughter. He especially delighted in tweaking the rich and mighty and became renowned for his biting performances at celebrity roasts.

Rickles’ training as a dramatic actor was evident in his performance opposite Robert de Niro in “Casino.” In Pixar’s beloved “Toy Story” movies, he provided the voice for Mr. Potatohead. He was known for being as kind and loyal a friend off-stage as he was caustic and insulting on stage. His closest friend was a comedian whose style and persona could not be more different, Bob Newhart. May his memory be a blessing.

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