Legendary comedian Don Rickles has passed away at the age of 90. The infamous insult comic died Thursday morning at his home in Los Angeles from kidney failure, his longtime publicist Paul Shefrin confirmed. Rickles was an honorary Rat Pack member and one of greatest at the celebrity roast of all-time.
Survivors include Rickles’ wife Barbara; a daughter and a son; and two grandchildren.
Rickles enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served during World War II on the motor torpedo boat tender USS Cyrene as a seaman first class. He was honorably discharged in 1946. After the war, he tried to be a dramatic actor, but had a hard time finding consistent work so he started performing standup comedy. He developed into an insult comic to respond to his hecklers. Audiences enjoyed his crowd-work better than his prepared material.
Don’s big break came in 1965 when he made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” His brash comedy meshed well on the late night shows and he became a staple on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “Late Show with David Letterman” where he employed his unique and unapologetic comedy stylings.
He became a Vegas headliner and was often seen in the company of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.
Rickles appeared on several TV comedy shows including “Archie Bunker’s Place,” “The Lucy Show,” “F Troop,” “Get Smart,” “Newhart” and “Hot in Cleveland.”
Despite the genre of insult comedy disappearing in the 70s and 80s, Rickles marched on with his brazen and often racial brand of humor.
Rickles garnered mainstream notoriety and achieved his dreams of becoming a dramatic actor when he appeared in the Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film “Casino.”
In 1995, Rickles appeared in the original “Toy Story” voicing Mr. Potato Head. He also appeared in the 1999 sequel and third chapter of the hit animated movie in 2010.
Rickles performed at President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration.
Here’s Rickles roasting Artie Lange in the movie “Dirty Work.”