Earlier today, we reportedly the sad news that Hollywood has lost another legend, with comedian Don Rickles passing away at the age of 90. His publicist confirmed that the iconic insult comic passed in his Los Angeles home, from kidney failure. As word of his passing spread, Hollywood icons left and right paid tribute to the late comedian through social media, to honor this late legend.
While most sent out their tributes through Twitter, others released lengthier tributes elsewhere. Rolling Stone caught up with Gilbert Gottfried, who summed up the the late comedian's legacy with a heartfelt statement that explained why Rickles will go down in history as one of the best comedians ever. Here's what Gilbert Gottfried had to say.
"Don Rickles was never politically correct, and he would never apologize for any of it. He was totally unapologetic about his comedy. So I admired that and looked at him as a hero in that way. And as someone, like myself, who's done so many roasts, I really admired Rickles at the roasts. There are so many things he said at those over the years that made me laugh. I remember one Rickles quote where he said whenever he goes onstage, he has a nagging fear that he's not going to offend anybody. I never thought he crossed the line. He made a joke at the American Film Institute's tribute to Shirley MacLaine, "I don't want to insult President Obama. He's a friend of mine. He was over at the house last night, but then his mop broke," and they cut it out of the broadcast, because nowadays that's way too racist. And yet, I couldn't help but thinking, Obama himself probably would have laughed at that. And I heard one time Don Rickles was sitting in a restaurant and Morgan Freeman walked by, and Rickles yelled out, "Hey Morgan, get back to the kitchen." I don't know if Morgan laughed at that, but he probably laughed. And everybody else was scared to say anything around Frank Sinatra, and he was constantly insulting Sinatra and Sinatra would laugh. When I think of Rickles, I remember one time there was some event honoring Clint Eastwood, and Rickles went over to Eastwood's wife and said, "Cheer up, honey. You'll be coming into a lot of money soon." And Charles Bronson was in the audience, and he goes, "Charlie, make yourself at home. Shoot somebody." I was at home when I found out today that he had died. A friend of mine, who is an equal Don Rickles fanatic called me, and he told me. Rickles wasn't a young man, but it was still shocking that he died. 'Til the very end, he was still sharp when he'd go out on TV or perform anywhere. He's one of those people who remained great. Even when, physically, he looked very weak, he was still totally sharp and totally funny. He wasn't one of those performers that people applauded because they were still alive; he was one of those people he applauded and laughed because he was just so funny all the time. His legacy to me will always be that he didn't care who he insulted, he didn't care who he offended. If it got a laugh, it was great."
Our report from earlier today revealed that funeral services will be private, and that donations can be made in the late comedian's name to his son's organization, the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Don Rickles got his start in the entertainment business by performing as a stand-up comedian for several years. While he was generally perceived as a traditional stand-up comic, an encounter with Frank Sinatra during a 1957 show turned his career around. When the comedian noticed that Frank Sinatra was watching his show, Don Rickles told the legendary performer, "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody." While Sinatra normally did not take kindly to such heckling, he roared with laughter. A year later, the late actor made his feature film debut in the 1958 classic Run Silent, Run Deep, alongside Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster and Jack Warden. In 1959, he also signed on for his first Las Vegas appearance, performing his newly-perfected brand of insult comedy at the Hotel Sahara, which lead to gigs at Vegas mainstays such as the Riviera, the Golden Nugget, the Desert Inn and the Sahara. Here's what Don Rickles' longtime friend Bob Newhart had to say about Don Rickles' passing.
"He was called 'The Merchant of Venom,' but in truth, he was one of the kindest, caring and most sensitive human beings we have ever known. We are devastated and our world will never be the same. We were totally unprepared for this."
He became a regular guest on The Tonight Show, becoming one of Johnny Carson's most frequent guests, and more recently, he would often appear on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, before the talk show host retired in 2015. His brand of insult comedy found the perfect home with the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts TV specials which aired throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, where he would skewer celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Kirk Douglas, Sammy Davis Jr. and Mr. T. While he never ascended to "leading man" status on the big screen, the beloved comedian appeared in a slew of movies and TV shows while perfecting his comedy routines, such as Rat Race, a number of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies entitled Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach and Beach Blanket Bingo and Kelly's Heroes. Here's what comedian Robert Klein, who appears with Don Rickles in Marshall Fine's documentary Robert Klein Still Can't Stop His Leg, currently airing on Starz, had to say about Don Rickles' passing in a statement.
"Don Rickles was a brilliant improvisational comedian as well as an excellent actor. What many people do not realize is that for someone so widely known as an insult comedian, Don Rickles was also, genuinely, a very kind man."
Among his other film credits was a role in the 1995 classic Casino, where he starred alongside Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, with Martin Scorsese at the helm. Martin Scorsese also released a statement after learning of Don Rickles' passing. Here's what the filmmaker had to say.
"Don Rickles was a giant, a legend...and I can hear his voice now, skewering me for being so lofty. I had the honor of working with him on my picture Casino.He was a professional. He kept me doubled over with laughter every day on the set, yet he was a complete pro. We became friends over the years and I had the honor of being roasted by him more than once, sometimes when I didn't expect it. He just started showing up at places and insulting me. Experiencing Don, and tuning into his mind, I witnessed the evolution of his comedy. It was like listening to a great jazz musician wail. Nobody else did what he did. He made comedy into an art form. And like all geniuses, comic or otherwise, he's irreplaceable. He was much loved. I'm really missing this man."
Younger fans will most likely know Don Rickles best for voicing Mr. Potato Head in Pixar's Toy Story. He would go on to reprise that role in 1999's Toy Story 2, 2010's Toy Story 3 and short films such as Toy Story Midway Mania, Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation, Toy Story Toons: Small Fry, Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex, Toy Story of Terror and Toy Story That Time Forgot. He was currently working on the upcoming theatrical sequel Toy Story 4, which is slated for release in 2019. The actor and comedian is survived by his wife Virginia, his daughter Mindy and his grandchildren Ethan and Harrison. Take a look at the social media tributes to Don Rickles that have started pouring in today.
In lieu of flowers, Don Rickles' family has requested that people drop their pants and fire a rocket. #RIPDonRickles— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 6, 2017
RIP Mr Warmth, Don Rickles. I've gone down a YouTube rabbit hole many times watching his old chat show appearances & roasts. So very funny.— edgarwright (@edgarwright) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles RIP. He was one of my favorite all-time guests. He was a legend. God broke the mold with him. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/QXchU6PWD8— Julie Chen (@JulieChen) April 6, 2017
It is with deepest sincerity that we say farewell to the "King of Zing" Don Rickles. We will miss you dearly. https://t.co/RcPdIe1sHI— MGM Studios (@MGM_Studios) April 6, 2017
RIP comedy legend Don Rickles pic.twitter.com/McVMnDX5Hm— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) April 6, 2017
It's a sad, sad day. I feel incredibly honored to have worked with Don Rickles, and to have been insulted by him. Repeatedly. pic.twitter.com/a4Hyop1VkF— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) April 6, 2017
A God died today. Don Rickles, we did not want to ever lose you. Never. Hanx.— Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) April 6, 2017
One of my favorite notes I got from Don Rickles: pic.twitter.com/bE2Zf6zbbW— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles was a cyclone of funny with a heart of gold. Is God ready for your maniacal wit? Would love to hear what you said on arrival.— Lewis Black (@TheLewisBlack) April 6, 2017
My friend, my dad, the funniest biggest hearted of them all. A beautiful husband and father. My heart is broken. Rest In Peace. Don Rickles.— bob saget (@bobsaget) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles created a style of stand up and owned (!!!) it his entire career of 60+ years. It's unparalleled. No, I mean, NO ONE did that.— Kevin Pollak (@kevinpollak) April 6, 2017
The story about Don Rickles trying to use Frank Sinatra to impresss a woman is one of the funniest ever.— Anthony Breznican (@Breznican) April 6, 2017
I'll let Frank tell it... pic.twitter.com/FZvZfUYRkn
RIP Mr Warmth- Don Rickles can now insult the angels (with all due respect)— Bill Moseley (@choptopmoseley) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles was simply the best. He created insult comedy &yet every 1 of his targets felt loved and honored. One of a kind.#RIPdonrickles— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles, you kept us laughing for so many years. We will miss you dearly. Thanks for the zingers. You were one of a kind.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) April 6, 2017
RIP Don Rickles. Legend.— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles has passed away.— Billy Crystal (@BillyCrystal) April 6, 2017
A giant loss.
RIP Don Rickles. One of the funniest people that ever lived, you dumb schmuck.— billy eichner (@billyeichner) April 6, 2017
90 years with Don Rickles weren't enough. One of the sweetest and most lovely people I had the pleasure of knowing. We miss you already— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) April 6, 2017
Quite simply one of the funniest ever.— Dane Cook (@DaneCook) April 6, 2017
RIP Don Rickles 90 https://t.co/xiZf1U1g6J
Don Rickles saw me in the audience. Had me stand up. Everyone applauded. Then he eviscerated me. I was honored.— Jeff Daniels (@Jeff_Daniels) April 6, 2017
RIP Don Rickles. Make God laugh with the same five jokes.— Anthony Jeselnik (@anthonyjeselnik) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles made fun of me a couple times and I loved it. #RIP— Doug Benson (@DougBenson) April 6, 2017
I was honored to be Don's pal and work with him. My xx to his family. For sheer laughs and fearlessness, he's king. pic.twitter.com/OlmKBY7QoE— Richard Lewis (@TheRichardLewis) April 6, 2017
Never forget chasing Don Rickles around the audience on the Letterman show to spray him with champagne RIP Don— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) April 6, 2017
RIP Don Rickles, a sweet, funny man I had the privilege both to meet and perform with quite a few times.— Rita Rudner (@ritarudner) April 6, 2017
Top Dog and King of All Shit Talking Don Rickles!!! #DonRickles— MichaelRapaport (@MichaelRapaport) April 6, 2017
One of the great thrills of my life was being insulted by this man. I absolutely worshipped him.… https://t.co/R91RrMYYzs— Johnny Knoxville (@realjknoxville) April 6, 2017
Don Rickles— Jay Mohr (@jaymohr37) April 6, 2017
JFK/LAX we spoke for 3 hours while his beautiful wife Barbara slept.
Don Rickles was so kind to me I forgot we'd never met
Rickles is gone. He was the best, you hockey pucks. RIP— marc maron (@marcmaron) April 6, 2017
God Bless Don Rickles, aka, Mr. Warmth! Proud to have been heckled by him from the stage many times! #RIP— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) April 6, 2017
Rickles was awesome.— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) April 6, 2017
Joan with her lifelong friend and legendary comedian, Don Rickles at the Kraft Music Hall in 1968. Rest in peace, Don. pic.twitter.com/qV1l3rKpxW— Joan Rivers (@Joan_Rivers) April 6, 2017
I saw Don Rickles at the Daily Show once. He had no idea who I was. He looked at my face & said "Stop worrying. It's all going to be great" https://t.co/jOriPr9tqu— John Hodgman (@hodgman) April 6, 2017
Hockey puck. We've lost @DonRickles I love him so. Smart, funny, a pro and most important deeply and honestly kind. Kind is what matters.— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) April 6, 2017
RIP to this sweet and lovely man pic.twitter.com/j8mseq1aSY— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) April 6, 2017
One of the all time great men & comics Don Rickles passed, always a class act & funny as hell. RIP condolences to his family & to America— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) April 6, 2017
One person I always wanted to meet and shake hands with.— Eric Stonestreet (@ericstonestreet) April 6, 2017
RIP Don Rickles
Being skewered by Don Rickles was side-splitting funny.— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) April 6, 2017
A gentle soul with rapid fire wit. xoB pic.twitter.com/yl2mnT32Zz
Hail hail an original genius vacated this realm! RIP #DonRickles— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) April 6, 2017
Farewell to a comedic legend & dear friend, Don Rickles. I know you're cracking them up in the… https://t.co/dFcfoeFcPn— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) April 6, 2017
A national treasure is gone. Don Rickles' talent was limitless. To know him was a gift. He kept me laughing during 58-years of friendship. pic.twitter.com/B1IXEa9S4g— Larry King (@kingsthings) April 6, 2017
He never was Politically Correct and he never apologized for it. R.I.P. Don Rickles @DonRickles— Gilbert Gottfried (@RealGilbert) April 6, 2017