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Don Rickles: The Passing Of A Comedic Legend

by Anthony Rivera

On April 6, comedic legend Don Rickles unexpectedly passed away. Unfortunately, most reading this article do not know who he was. For those who did or didn’t, this article is a tribute.

Born in 1926 in Queens, NY, Don Rickles was a tough young man raised in a Jewish neighborhood, which shows in his style of comedy.

After a few attempts at becoming a dramatic actor and serving in the United States Navy, he starting performing at comedy clubs in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, slowly gaining a great amount of recognition.

Even early on, he was labeled an eccentric insult comic and was being recognized and encouraged to go to shows by Frank Sinatra.

With Sinatra’s support, Rickles became a successful headline performer in Las Vegas and was frequented at roasts of celebrities, including Dean Martin. He earned multiple nicknames like “The Merchant of Venom” and “Mr. Warmth,” all lovingly applied to a man who enjoyed poking fun at all ethnicities and walks of life to show how human we all are.

His first debut film, “Run Silent, Run Deep,” was a big success that lead him to dozens of other films over the years. Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, Rickles made appearances on several television programs including “Dick Van Dyke” and “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Shows” to name a few.

Over these decades, along with two to follow, Rickles would make appearances and do comedy shows all over the country and the world.

Although an insult comic and common T.V. personality, Rickles participated in innumerable projects over the next thirty years that included television shows, voice-overs for video games and animated films, while still performing at comedy clubs and events. He was a regular on late night talk shows, including Johnny Carson and David Letterman.

The main role that our generation knows him best as, is the voice of Mr. Potato Head from the Toy Story series. Although he was not a traditionally clean comedian, his love for laughter and comedy spread over many generations, which is why his presence on those projects was a joy to have.

Rickles won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in the Variety of Music Program. Among other nominations, were Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and David Letterman. His speech was heavily correlated with his character: “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.”

In addition to this man’s success and admiration, Rickles was honored at a Spike TV special called “One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles.” Jerry Seinfeld was the master of the ceremonies with an array of celebrities, including Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Jon Stewart, David Letterman and many more.

Sadly, he passed away only just a few short days ago. Rickles died of kidney failure at the old age of 90. Since his death, multiple talk show host including Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers have paid their respects.

David Letterman noted that Rickles “was always a highlight for me. Just endless mischief and nonsense, and a guy who would make the audience go completely crazy.” To a legend, a comedian, an actor and a friend, I wish the best to Don Rickles wherever he is; most likely cracking jokes on the entrance line to the pearly gates.”