Don Rickles: The Definition of a Comic Legend
Author(s): Robin Roth
Photos: Robin Roth
Editor: Savannah Burke
Published: March 22, 2009

Don Rickles...

The Definition of a Comic Legend

Story and Photos by: Robin Roth

Don Rickles lovingly known as “Mr. Warmth” is truly a comic legend! For over 50 years in show business, he has been there, done it, and seen it all, while surrounded by the greatest entertainers who ever lived. His comedy is as timeless as he is.


Don appeared March 20th, 21st, and 22nd at the Orleans Hotel and Casino and rocked the house with laughter. He walked out to a well-deserved standing ovation and ended the show the same way, only this time the audience was screaming for more! I have seen Mr. Rickles many times throughout the years and I must say, on this night he was as funny as ever. He stands there with 82 years under his belt, just as quick, witty, and out-of-the-box as he has ever been. His age has not slowed him down one iota, well maybe ONE! He sings, he dances, and paces the stage in true Rickles STYLE, all of which has made him one of the 20th century’s most famous funny-Men.



Throughout his show, Rickles pardons no one. He is an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY INSULTER! He makes fun of everybody. What is really amazing is that audience is filled, and nobody gets insulted or offended. What we all were was hysterical! How Rickles gets away with this is true brilliance. He is risqué, insulting, racial, ridiculous, crazy, insane, but, above all, FUNNY…VERY FUNNY! I don’t think, in fact I know, that no other comic in the world can get away with any of his offensive racial remarks. I suppose because he is so well loved and respected, and everyone realistically knows that he is kidding that he can get away with it.




Not only has he appeared in top showrooms all around the world, but Rickles, is also, (and has been) highly visible on TV and in motion pictures. His film list includes "Casino," "Toy Story 1” and its sequel, "Quest for Camelot," "Dirty Work” and more. Don has starred in live stage productions and, along the way, has had two best-selling comedy albums. I suggest that you RUN out and buy his latest book, “Rickles' Book,” which has been on the New York Times bestseller list. I was lucky enough to have him sign my book after the last show that I got to see him at. Catch one of his book signings with a meet and greet, and have him sign your book for you! Go online and check it out!

FYI, Don Rickles was born in New York City on May 8, 1926. As a child, Don was painfully shy and took inspiration from the way his father, Max, (who was in the clothing and insurance business) endeared himself to people through humor. Eventually, school plays led to work as a radio announcer and later nightclub engagements, where he worked initially as a joke-slinging stand-up comic. To his surprise, he discovered that audiences totally responded to the off-the-cuff insults he fired back at hecklers, and gradually, he turned this shtick into HIS ACT.

Rickles served in the United States Navy during World War II (which he also talks about, IN A FUNNY WAY, in his show) and was honorably discharged in 1946. He then returned to his stand-up career and studied drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He went on to make his film debut opposite Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable in the military drama “Run Silent, Run Deep” in 1958.
Later, Frank Sinatra caught his act at a small Hollywood nightclub, and Rickles (and what chutzpah he had, I might add) didn’t even spare SINATRA any of his trademark insults. Sinatra found his routine hilarious and quickly helped to spread word about his act. Rickles gives his beloved mother, Etta, complete credit for the Sinatra meeting, as his mother arranged this with Sinatra’s mother. Even though he refers to his mom as a Jewish Patton, it is clear that he is crazy about her. He even ends his show thanking her! With the help of Sinatra, Rickles booked his first Las Vegas date two years later at the Sahara.

In 1965, Rickles booked his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (NBC, 1962-1992); he would subsequently return 99 more times. No one on the planet ever made Johnny laugh more then him. He then followed this with a string of guest shots on “The Dean Martin Show” (NBC, 1965-1974), during which producers invited a host of celebrity guests to sit in the audience and take the full brunt of Rickles’ attacks. Rickles also enjoyed success in the world of comedy records with his 1968 live debut, “Hello, Dummy!” He followed this with “Don Rickles Speaks,” a few years later.

The Don, also performed, at the White House in 1984 and slung a few of his notorious zingers at the Reagan Administration with typical fervor. (NOW THIS I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO WATCH!)

In 2000, Don received his well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! He continued to work on numerous films and television projects, ranging from “The Wool Cap” (2004), which earned him more critical acclaim, to the hilarious documentary “The Aristocrats” (2005). Even though he was one of the oldest comics in the cast, he more than hysterically fit in against the younger comics like Bob Saget, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Silverman.

Back in Vegas at the Orleans, Rickles made people SICK… with laughter. Ya, know, after a while with him, it gets hard to breathe. For almost an hour, Don kept the jokes coming. He did take a moment to support the troops, though. How cool is that! He told tales about his beloved mom, best friend Bob Newhart, and of course Sinatra as well as the good-ole Vegas days. Quite fun to hear… But at no time did he stop picking on the audience members for long. Remember, laughter is his life.


If you ever have the opportunity to see this wild man in person, I suggest that you do. You will laugh long after you leave the theater. Rickles is a unique, one-of-a-kind comedienne who is funnier than ever. He is a gift to us, a gift to laughter, and a kind human being. However, Don Rickles will forever be remembered as, “The Merchant of Venom,” “The Master of Insults” and “Mr. Warmth.” 

Don Rickles, we love you! Rock the laughter on!

I would like to take a moment to thank the stellar, helpful, and charming Orleans showroom manager, Stacey Medall, whose assistance made this article on Donny possible. Thank you girl...