Iconic comedian Don Rickles, who popularized insult comedy and inspired generations of laughter over six decades by poking fun at all walks of life, has died. He was 90. Rickles poked fun at people of all creeds, colors, and sexual orientations and held nothing back when aiming at the average joe or Frank Sinatra.
Don Rickles Cause of Death
Rickles died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles of kidney failure, his publicist Paul Schrifin announced.
Rickles was sarcastically nicknamed “Mr. Warmth,” thanks to his teasing sense of humor. His brand of takedown comedy extended to stars, public figures and even the crowds that paid good money to see him perform.
Rickles began his career as a traditional stand-up comedian, but soon found that his biggest laughs came when he called out his hecklers in spectacular and hilarious fashion. His career spiked once he began calling out the likes of Sinatra in public. But when Rickles put the famous singer and actor in his crosshairs at a Hollywood club in 1957 – telling the Chairman of the Board to “Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody.” – Sinatra roared with laughter.
In 1959, Rickles signed his first Las Vegas appearance, in the lounge of the Hotel Sahara. In 1985, when Sinatra was asked to perform at Ronald Reagan’s second Inaugural Ball, he insisted that Rickles be allowed to perform a comedy routine as well.
Rickles could often be seen on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts which ran on NBC from the mid 1970s to the mid-80s. Johnny Carson tapped Rickles as a frequent guest on The Tonight Show over the years. The comic also made his fair share of film appearances, with notable roles in Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Pajama Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and Casino (1975). Younger audiences may recognize him as the voice of the curmudgeonly Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films.
In 1965, Rickles married Barbara Sklar, who survives him. The couple, who often vacationed with deadpan comic Bob Newhart and his wife, Virginia, had two children, Mindy and Larry. His son, who produced the HBO documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, died in December 2011 at age 41.