Appreciation: Comics Remember Insult Legend Don Rickles

By Fadroski, Kelli Skye | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), April 6, 2017 | Go to article overview

Appreciation: Comics Remember Insult Legend Don Rickles


Fadroski, Kelli Skye, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Don Rickles (left) poses for a photo backstage with comedian and fan Brad Williams following a taping of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (Photo courtesy of Brad Williams)

Comedian Brad Williams recalls first seeing Don Rickles do his stand-up act on late-night infomercials for the "Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" collections.

"I remember seeing these clips of Don and he was just killing it," Williams, 33, said Thursday morning. "I sort of went into a deep dive after seeing those, looking him up and soon finding out what a legend he was."

Rickles died at his Los Angeles home on Thursday of kidney failure at the age of 90. He was a big-mouthed, sharp-tongued insult comic who pioneered a pugnacious brand of humor and influenced generations of performers, including Lisa Lampanelli, Anthony Jeselnik and Jeff Ross. He was an honorary member of the original Rat Pack and the only guy who could truly get away with poking fun at Frank Sinatra, once telling him as the singer sat in the audience, "Hey, Frank, make yourself at home -- hit somebody."

"There'd be no insult comedy without Don Rickles," Williams said. "He mastered it and made it famous and acceptable. He proved to everyone that you could be mean, you could say nasty things about people, as long as you didn't actually mean what you say or you just have a sweetness about you that let's everyone know that you're not really that guy. He made fun of everyone and when you make fun of everybody, you make fun of nobody because everyone becomes equal. Someone who makes fun of everyone equally doesn't really hate anybody."

Numerous celebrities took to Twitter to express their grief, including his longtime friend and talk-show host Larry King who tweeted, "A national treasure is gone. Don Rickles' talent was limitless. To know him was a gift. He kept me laughing during 58-years of friendship."

Billy Crystal called Rickles' passing "a giant loss," while Tom Hanks tweeted "A God died today." Bob Saget, who cast Rickles as a witty movie theater owner in his comedy film "Dirty Work," tweeted, "My friend, my dad, the funniest biggest hearted of them all."

Jeff Ross, dubbed the Roastmaster General for the jabs he delivers at celebrity roasts, has often admitted owing a tremendous debt to Rickles. He tweeted simply, "Greatest of all time."

Though he poked fun at others for their shortcomings, Rickles also had a reputation of being one of the nicest guys in the business.

"In my heart I'm not offensive or no one would come to see me," Rickles said in an interview with the Orange County Register before performing at City National Grove of Anaheim in 2011. "I'm not mean-spirited and I'm proud of that. It's all exaggeration. I make fun of people and life and exaggerate all of our weaknesses and our habits. …

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