Comedian Don Rickles Dies

Award winning comedian Don Rickles died at his Los Angles home April 6 as a result of kidney failure just one month shy of his 91st birthday.


The comic carved his own niche by using comedy to insult any and everybody.

Rickles has been credited with being the inspiration for the character Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” and has spawned numerous comics to emulate him. Rickles success was due to the fact that even though he may have crossed the line a bit, he made sure everybody knew it was all in fun with no malice.

Speaking on his career Rickles said, “I think the reason that (my act) caught on and gave me a wonderful career is that I was never mean-spirited. Not that you had to like it, but you had to be under a rock somewhere not to get it.”

One thing that set Rickles apart from the scores of comics who followed him was that Rickles may pick on every ethnic group there was, but he never used a profane word.

More than just a comic, Rickles won a Prime Time Emmy Award for his appearance in “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” and has been presented with the Johnny Carson Award for Comedic Excellence. The Friars Club in New York City presented Rickles with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Hollywood actor turned Presidents Ronald Reagan had Rickles appear at his inauguration.

While Rickles made nearly 200 television appearances as himself, he also made numerous appearances in film and television productions. He made his television debut in 1955 on the television series “Stage 7” where he play an announcer. Rickles other television roles include “M Squad”, “The Twilight Zone”,”Wagon Train”, “The Addams Family”, “The Munsters”, The Beverly Hillbillies”, “Gomer Pyle: USMC”, “F Troop”, “The Wild Wild West”, “Gilligan’s Island”, “I Spy”, “I Dream of Jeanie”, “Get Smart”, “Sanford and Son”, “Medical Center”, “CPO Sharkey”, “Archie Bunker’s Place”, “Tales from the Crypt”, “Murphy Brown”, and “Hot in Cleveland”.

He made his film debut in 1959, appearing with Clark Gable and Burt Lancster in the submarine film “Run Silent, Run Deep”. Probably known to younger audiences as the voice of “Mr. Potato Head” in the “Toy Story” franchise, Rickles has also apperared in “Muscle Beach Party”, “Bikini Beach”, “Beach Blanket Bingo”, “Kelly’s Heroes”, and “Zookeeper”.

Donald Jay Rickles was born May 8, 1926 in Queens to a Jewish family but grew up in Jackson Heights. After high school, Rickles enlisted in the United States Navy where he servied upon the USS Cyrene during World War II. He was honourably discharged after two years service.

Intending to be a serious actor, Rickles attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art. After not being able to land any roles, Rickles turned his hand to comedy where he got his start in the Borscht Belt – a place Rickles noted the audience is right on top of you…heckling your every move. And Rickles gave it right back to them…launching a career that lasted for over 50 years.


Predeceased by his son Lawrence, Rickles is survived by his wife of over 50 years Barbara, daughter Mindy, and grandchildren Ethan and Harrison.

photos courtesy of:
By Gary Dunaier – originally posted to Flickr as “Mr. Warmth” himself, the legendary Don Rickles, performs live on stage at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 01/12/08, CC BY 2.0,

By Joseph Scandore-management – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain,

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