He was one of the last of the old school comedians. His put-downs and insults of audience members and fellow celebrities alike probably wouldn't be acceptable today, but Don Rickles, alternately known as "Mr. Warmth" or "The Merchant of Venom", the latter a play on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, made a career out of poking fun at just about everyone with a wink and a nod, shall we say. Sadly, Rickles passed away today, a month shy of his 91st birthday.
As an actor, Rickles demonstrated that his strength in films wasn't his comedy act, but the fact that he could also do drama, as evidenced by roles in films as diverse as "Kelly's Heroes", though it could be construed that he was, in fact, comedy relief, and the vampire film, "Innocent Blood". On television, Rickles had trouble sustaining his own series. Two self-titled shows flopped very quickly, and Aaron Ruben's Navy comedy, C. P. O. Sharkey, lasted two seasons. Rickles also was the voice of Mr. Potato Head in Pixar's "Toy Story" movies.
Rickles was immortalized in comic books by writer-artist Jack Kirby in the pages of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, in the early 70's, and given a heroic alter-ego, "Goody Rickles", in a two-part story. Kirby must've been a fan. In the late 70's, Rickles was regularly featured on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, but in 1970, Rickles was himself roasted by the Friars Club, led by the Tonight Show's Johnny Carson, on The Kraft Music Hall:
Yes, Martin would also roast Rickles a few years later, and was known to undercut Rickles when he was roasting other celebrities.
We're going to miss Rickles' brand of humor. Some would dismiss it now as politically incorrect. One of the few exceptions may be our current President, whose worldview is a little skewed anyway........!
Rest in peace, Don.