The man who turned insulting people into an art form, has died. Legendary comedian Don Rickles passed away on Thursday, April 6 at his home in Los Angeles of kidney failure, according to his publicist Paul Shefrin. He was 90.
For seven decades Rickles pushed the boundaries of comedy and no one was spared. In fact, getting insulted by the man sarcastically nicknamed “Mr. Warmth,” was a badge of honor in Hollywood.
Shortly after news of his passing broke, celebrities such as Billy Crystal, Jim Carrey, and Bob Newhart took to Twitter to share their condolences and honor Rickles and his one-of-a-kind sense of humor.
Don Rickles has passed away.
A giant loss.
— Billy Crystal (@BillyCrystal) April 6, 2017
Don once begged me for a couple of bucks then told me to twist myself into a pretzel. Ego slayer! Comic Everest! Spank you, Mr Rickles. ;^)
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) April 6, 2017
Today, we lost our dearest friend & the world lost a great comedian. There will never be another. But, we knew the original.
— Bob Newhart (@BobNewhart) April 7, 2017
I was thrilled to interview/be insulted non-stop by the legendary Don Rickles. I will sorely miss this incredibly funny and lovable man.
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) April 6, 2017
RIP Don Rickles. Legend.
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) April 6, 2017
He never was Politically Correct and he never apologized for it. R.I.P. Don Rickles @DonRickles
— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) April 6, 2017
My friend, my dad, the funniest biggest hearted of them all. A beautiful husband and father. My heart is broken. Rest In Peace. Don Rickles.
— bob saget (@bobsaget) April 6, 2017
— John Stamos (@JohnStamos) April 7, 2017
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. pic.twitter.com/B1IXEa9S4g
— Larry King (@kingsthings) April 6, 2017
Insulting Frank Sinatra
Rickles’ humor took shape in 1957 when a jab at Frank Sinatra during a stand-up routine in Hollywood, caused the famed singer to roar with laughter.
“Make yourself at home Frank. Hit somebody,” Rickles said from the stage, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
From that moment forward, Rickles career skyrocketed and shows in Las Vegas soon followed. Sinatra would continue to be the butt of Rickles jokes throughout the rest of his life and in the 1970’s and 1980’s celebrities such as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and President of the United States Ronald Reagan also felt the Rickles wrath during appearances on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.
Late Night Laughs
For 30 years there was no bigger destination on television for comics than The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.
Rickles made frequent visits to the late night stage and he often had Johnny, Ed McMahon and other guests in stitches with his rapid-fire wit.
In recent years, his hilarious guest spots became a staple of Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Much like with Carson, Kimmel and his guests were always fair game for Rickles’ humor.
Kimmel remembered his good friend in a heartfelt tweet and broke down while speaking about him on his show Thursday night.
Mr. Potato Head
While his humor was often dirty and filled with innuendos, Rickles reached younger audiences with his voice work as Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies.
“It’s a lot of fun to be in this cast,” Rickles said on the red carpet at the 2010 premiere of Toy Story 3. “Everybody talks about it constantly — they say [it’s] ‘the third Potato Head.’ For me, all my grandchildren are here, and it’s a big kick for them.”
Tom Hanks (who voiced Woody in the Pixar trilogy) expressed his admiration for Rickles on Twitter.
A God died today. Don Rickles, we did not want to ever lose you. Never. Hanx.
— Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) April 6, 2017
Rickles signed on to reprise his role for Toy Story 4, which is scheduled for release in 2019. It’s unclear as of this writing if he had recorded any dialogue before his passing.
Rickles insulted people of all creeds, races, ethnicities and social statuses and he got away with it because everyone was in on the joke.
There has never been, and will never be, another comedian like him but his influence is present in some of today’s hottest comics.
Jimmy Kimmel thrives on his sarcastic humor and dry delivery, while Conan O’Brien is a master in self-deprecating humor. Remnants of Rickles humor also appear in Zach Galifianakis’ web series Between Two Ferns and in Billy Eichner’s fast-paced ventures through New York City on Billy on the Street.
Eichner used Twitter to show his appreciation for Rickles in a tweet the late comic would have surely enjoyed.
RIP Don Rickles. One of the funniest people that ever lived, you dumb schmuck.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) April 6, 2017
As crude as he could be with his humor, Don was the complete opposite in his personal life.
A devoted family man, Rickles wed Barbara Sklar in 1965 and they had two children together, daughter Mindy and son Larry. The couple celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary in March and Don tweeted his adoration for his wife in what turned out to be his final tweet ever.
We are celebrating our 52nd Wedding Anniversary March 14th. Happy Anniversary my dear wife, Barbara. You are my life. ❤️❌⭕Pussycat
— Don Rickles (@DonRickles) March 12, 2017
Rickles is survived by Barbara, daughter Mindy, son-in-law Ed, and grandchildren Ethan and Harrsion. He was preceded in death by son Larry, who passed away in December 2011.
For those looking to pay tribute to Don, the family encourages donations to the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
(Photo credit: Twitter)