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Don Rickles - Profile


Comedian Don Rickles
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images


May 8, 1926

Don Rickles Overview:

Don Rickles is the all-time king of insult comedy. A nightclub comic and Las Vegas mainstay for over 50 years, Rickles has stated he approaches comedy like a matador facing a bull. It's usually Rickles that wins that duel. He's influenced an entire generation of insult comics like Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Ross, but even they aren't able to duplicate his genius for coming up with off-the-cuff one-liners. He remains the untouchable master.

Quick Don Rickles Facts:

  • Don Rickles was born in Queens, New York.
  • He began doing stand-up in the early 1950s.
  • He released his first stand-up album, Hello, Dummy!, in 1968.
  • His second album, Don Rickles Speaks, was released one year later.
  • Rickles started performing in Las Vegas in the early 1960s, and still performs there regularly today.
  • In 2007, Rickles released his memoir, Rickles' Book.
  • Rickles won an Emmy in 2008 for the documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.

In the Beginning:

Don Rickles was born in Queens, New York, in May of 1926. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Rickles set off to study acting at American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Though he would land the occasional role, Rickles grew frustrated when his acting career failed to take off and began performing stand-up comedy. The acting world's loss was the comedy world's gain.

Don Rickles: Insult Comic is Born:

Rickles quickly developed a style of comedy known as insult comedy when he became famous for responding to hecklers in his audience. Soon, fans were coming to hear him attack audience members and he started losing more and more of his pre-written act. Over time, Rickles would eventually become the King of insult comedy.

In the early 1960s, Rickles went from playing L.A. nightclubs to being a popular headliner in Las Vegas with the help of his new friend Frank Sinatra. Rickles has remained a Vegas mainstay ever since.

Don Rickles Acts:

By the '60s, Rickles' comedy career made him famous enough to start getting film roles. After his big-screen debut in 1958's Run Silent, Run Deep, Rickles acted consistently throughout the '60s in film and TV. Among other projects, he was a fixture in the Frankie & Annette Beach Party movies.

Rickles made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965, and quickly became one of Carson's favorite guests. He would go on to host and appear as a guest on the show over 100 times while Carson was there.

More Sitcoms, Movies and Stand-up:

After a failed variety show in 1968, Rickles once again received his own series nearly 10 years later with the sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey in 1976. That show lasted only two seasons, but became famous when Johnny Carson interrupted a taping to chastise Rickles for breaking a cigarette box live on The Tonight Show when Carson wasn't there.

By the 1980s, Rickles was headlining shows in Vegas alongside Steve Lawrence. He continued performing throughout the decade, still making regular TV appearances on series and The Tonight Show.

In 1993, Rickles took another shot at sitcom work opposite comedian Richard Lewis on Daddy Dearest. The show was quickly canceled.

Though Rickles didn't do as much film work as he once had, he did make appearances in a few films during the 1990s, including the horror film Innocent Blood, Martin Scorsese's Casino and the Norm MacDonald comedy Dirty Work.

Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project:

In 2007, Rickles published a memoir of his life, called Rickles' Book. In it, he chronicled his days as a comedian and the life-long close relationship he had with his mother, Etta.

The same year, director John Landis (who had worked with Rickles on Innocent Blood) made a documentary about Rickles for HBO. The film, called Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, won Rickles a Primetime Emmy award in 2008.

Additional Don Rickles Facts:

  • His best friend is fellow comedian Bob Newhart.
  • He performed alongside Frank Sinatra at the Second Inaugural Ball for Ronald Regan in 1985.
  • Rickles supplies the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films.
  • Rickles has been married to his wife, Barbara, for over 40 years.
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