8 months ago
Legendary standup comic Don Rickles, who was as proficient at insulting the mugs who paid to see him as he was public figures and other celebrities, died Thursday in his Los Angeles home.
The comedian perished from kidney failure, his longtime publicist confirmed to Variety.
He was 90.
Born in New York and a Navy veteran of World War II, Rickles honed his patented acerbic style in nightclubs, before breaking big nationally after a high-profile gig on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965.
By then, he had already accumulated a number of TV and movie credits, including supporting roles in several beach movies starring Annette Funicello.
Though he became a fixture in Las Vegas and rubbed elbows (and traded barbs) with the likes of Frank Sinatra, he disappointingly never found the perfect television or movie leading vehicle to showcase his talents for roasting anyone and everyone, including “hockey pucks” of every religious and ethnic persuasion.
He did shine in regular appearances on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts that NBC aired in the 1970s and ’80s. By the time those wrapped up, network executives viewed his schtick as too mean and outdated, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
But Rickles, as he usually did, got the last laugh on his critics. After his career was more or less pronounced dead in the 1980s, he fashioned an unlikely comeback in movies, both in a memorable supporting role in 1995’s Casino opposite Robert De Niro and as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies.
Rickles is survived by a wife, Barbara Sklar, and a daughter, Mindy. He also had a son who died in 2011.