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Don Rickles, Legendary Comedian, Dead at 90

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Don Rickles
Comedian Don Rickles appears on the “Late Late Show” with host Craig Ferguson at CBS Television City on March 1, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

 

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.

Don Rickles
Rickles, pictured making host Johnny Carson laugh on ‘The Tonight Show’ in 1990 had his biggest career break on the program 25 years earlier. (Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

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 By the time those wrapped up, network executives viewed his schtick as too mean and outdated, according to The Hollywood Reporter.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.

Don Rickles
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 15: Comedian Don Rickles and singer Tony Bennett attend the 10th Annual Exploring The Arts Gala at Radio City Music Hall on September 15, 2016 in New York City. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Exploring the Arts, Inc.)
Don Rickles
Clint Eastwood watches as Don Rickles weighs his captured ingots in a scene from the film ‘Kelly’s Heroes’, 1970. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)
Don Rickles
The short lived ‘Don Rickles Show’ lasted just a season in 1968. (ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
Don Rickles
Don Rickles during Don Rickles Gets Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, United States. ( J. Vespa/WireImage)

 

—RealClearLife