Don Rickles, 1926 - 2017
"The King of Zing" was 90.
Rickles "became known as 'The Merchant of Venom' and 'The King of Zing' as he took insult comedy to a new level," writes Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times. "For Rickles, everyone was fair game; the bigger the better…. 'If I were to insult people and mean it, that wouldn't be funny,' he told the New York Daily News in 1996. 'There's a difference between an actual insult and a friendly jab. So I don't think I'm offensive onstage. I like to think I'm like the guy who goes to the office Christmas party Friday night, insults some people but still has his job Monday morning.'"
"Rickles intermittently played in movies, highlighted by Kelly’s Heroes (1970), where he co-starred with Clint Eastwood as Sgt. Crapgame, an Army black-marketer who had no compunction about cutting favorable deals with the Nazis," note the Hollywood Reporter's Mike Barnes and Duane Byrge. "He also played opposite beach bunny Annette Funicello in such movies as Pajama Party (1964) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), appeared as a Vegas casino manager in Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995) and voiced the cranky Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films."
Peter Keepnews and Richard Severo for the New York Times: "Mr. Rickles got his first break, the story goes, when Sinatra and some of his friends came to see him perform in 1957—in Hollywood, according to most sources, although Mr. Rickles himself said it was in Miami. 'Make yourself at home, Frank,' Mr. Rickles said to Sinatra, whom he had never met. 'Hit somebody.' Sinatra laughed so hard, he fell out of his seat."
Don Rickles was 90. Just a couple of weeks ago, Deadline's Denise Petski reported that he was lining up a television show, Dinner with Don, "featuring Rickles dining with friends and fellow comedians at some of his favorite LA-area restaurants, with a guest list that includes Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Poehler, Vince Vaughn, Paul Rudd, Marisa Tomei and Martin Scorsese."
Updates, 4/8: Deadline passes along a statement from Martin Scorsese:
Don Rickles was a giant, a legend…and I can hear his voice now, skewering me for being so lofty. I had the honor of working with him on my picture Casino. He was a professional. He kept me doubled over with laughter every day on the set—yet he was a complete pro. We became friends over the years and I had the honor of being roasted by him more than once—sometimes when I didn’t expect it. He just started showing up at places and insulting me. Experiencing Don, and tuning into his mind, I witnessed the evolution of his comedy. It was like listening to a great jazz musician wail. Nobody else did what he did. He made comedy into an art form. And like all geniuses, comic or otherwise, he’s irreplaceable. He was much loved. I’m really missing this man.
"Some of the very funny people he inspired over the years took to social media after his death to pay tribute, recount memories, and even get in one last put-down," writes Marissa Martinelli at Slate. "We’ve rounded up some of the best."
And from Allen Barra in the Voice: "Don Rickles was a heck of a guy to sit next to at a fight."