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Jul 16 2011

Popular Culture (Personalities) 20110715: Don Rickles

Donald Jay “Don” Rickles (I like it that he uses his own name, and I would here but would have to give up my low UID to do so) is unique.  I am actually not that fond of him, but he is an American icon.  Born 19260508, he is now 85 years old, and going strong!  That is quite an accomplishment just by itself!

His trademark is really being a jerk.  I am a jerk unintentionally from time to time, and when I am a jerk, the results are usually not very good.  He does it intentionally, and that seems to work for him.

I was going to write this piece about a completely different subject, but had what I call the Jay Leno TeeVee Show on for background noise, and Rickles was one of the guests.  I thought that he was dead, but I guess that I had him confused with Rodney Dangerfield.

Actually, Rickles is quite talented.  He started out as a serious actor, playing parts in motion pictures starring the likes of Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.  That did not pan out well for him, so he went back to his old haunt, stand up comedy.  Around that same time when playing a club in Florida, he insulted Frank Sinatra who loved the way that Rickles worked.  From that time hence, he has been known for his insulting comedic style.  That is not really my taste, because I do not go for that, but he is really good at it.  My understanding is that almost everyone that he insults takes it in the manner in which he intends it, just for fun.  My skin is a bit too thin for that, but I am not a public figure, except for here, so it is not likely that I will be the butt of one of his jokes.

I should mention that he is the son of immigrants.  His mum was from a part of Europe controlled by the House of Hapsburg, aka the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His father was from the Russian Empire.  He is pretty much a product of what we progressives like to think of as the huge Melting Pot that the United States used for its unprecedented success during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Both of his parents were Jewish, and so obviously is he.  I am talking from an ethnic perspective, not necessarily any religions one.  Reports are conflicting, but the propensity of them indicate that Yiddish was his first tongue, which sort of makes sense because one of his favorite epitaphs for folks that he was insulting was to call them a “hockey puck”.  Whilst not Yiddish, it SOUNDS Yiddish!  Yiddish is sort of a gemisch of German and Hebrew, with many other elements.  In any event, he mastered New York English quite well, and that is part of his schtick, also a Yiddish word as far as I can tell.

The first time I remember seeing him, other than his many appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson (which I promise to do a series on here soon, because it was just so, so good) was in the old Beach Blanket movie serials with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.  Most people do not know that her husband at the time was Rickles’ agent, so he was a shoe in for parts in them.  Those movies were horrible, but they were also popular and got him some screen time.

As I said, he is by far not my favorite comedian, but he has his moments.  Later I shall include a few videos with him in them that are really pretty funny.  Last night on Leno he was sitting by Bristol Palin when Leno asked her if her mum was going to run for President.  She would not give a direct answer, so he asked if there was any reason why she should not.  Rickles immediately chimed in, “Because she could lose!”  I looked for the video of that but You Tube had pulled it due to copyright concerns.  I did find a link for it elsewhere.  No embed code, but here is the clip.

Here are a few of his more memorable moments from the show from the Carson years:

This is the famous spot where he unexpectedly showed up on the set when Carson was getting a massage.

Here is another famous bit where Rickles broke Carson’s cigarette box the night before while he was guest hosting for Carson.  Carson literally goes to a live set across the hall where Rickles was taping an episode of his show, CPO Sharkey.  There was no embed code available, so you will have to follow this

link.

Here is another piece with Rickles and the outrageous Buddy Hackett on Carson.  Once again, there is no embed code, so you will have to follow this link.

We shall end this with Rickles’ last appearance with Johnny Carson.  This was shot in May of 1992, and Carson retired from The Tonight Show on the 22nd of that month.  It is in two parts, and there are embeds.

Part 2:

Rickles is married, to the same woman for 45 years now.  With no plans to retire, if he is your style of comedian, you might want to get tickets before he gives out.  As I said, his style is not my favorite, but he does it better than most others that attempt insult comedy.  I think the key to his success is that he is more witty than hateful.  It is EASY to be hateful, but HARD to be insulting without being hateful sounding.

That is it for now.  I have no topic for next week yet, but will think of something.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

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