Don Rickles, king of insult comedy, dies at 90

Rickles died Thursday morning at his home in Los Angeles from kidney failure, according to his publicist.

But it was "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast", which ran from 1974 to 1984 on NBC, where Rickles' barbs and zingers helped firmly establish him as "Mr. Warmth". His most memorable - and ubiquitous - performances were on late night talk shows.

After toiling in relative obscurity for years as a more conventional stand-up comedian, Rickles unwittingly discovered his biggest laughs came when he turned the table on his hecklers.

Rickles was also close to comedian Bob Newhart, who wrote: "Don Rickles and I are best friends".

The comedy world has lost yet another legend.

In an interview with Reuters to promote his 2007 memoir "Rickles' Book", he said his flair for impromptu insults grew out of his shortcomings as a conventional comic. In 1967, he starred in West Coast presentations of "The Odd Couple", as well as more prominent TV roles, including classics like "I Love Lucy", "Gilligan's Island", and "I Dream of Jeannie".

The world just got a little colder with the passing of acclaimed comedian and actor Don Rickles, the man sarcastically known as "Mr. Warmth".

Tim Allen: "Don Rickles is one of the biggest reasons I am a comic today".

Los Angeles led to some TV and movie roles, but it was in Las Vegas, the Rat Pack's home base, where Rickles perfected his craft of curmudgeonly humor with sharply timed insults.

The friendship began in the early 1950s, when Rickles was performing at Murray Franklin's, a small club in Miami Beach, while Sinatra was headlining at the prestigious Fontainebleau. But spend time with Rickles, and you realize it's an act, Stewart says: "He's a comedic actor who created a character antithetical to his heart".

"I just got finished doing [the voice of Toy Story's] Mr. Potato Head for this fantastic 5-ft. doll at Disneyland".

The New York-born Rickles had an intense, often-ad libbed, rapid-fire delivery and a wide, impish grin.

Etta Rickles died in 1984 at the age of 83. "Loyalty in this business is very important".

Rickles was married to Barbara Sklar, who survives him.

  • Delores Daniels