Insult comedian Don Rickles was sarcastically nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” by his show business buddies because of his frontal assault, and verbal barbs which showed no mercy. Rickles is also known as the “Merchant of Venom.” Rickles calls audience members “hockey pucks,” “morons,” or worse.
Don Rickles jokingly and frequently incorporated ethnic slurs and bigotry into his act. If you were Asian, he might mention slanty-eyes, buck teeth and Pearl Harbor; if you were Black the topic of watermelon might be brought up; if you were Irish, drunkenness would be implied; and if you were Italian, talk of the Mafia would surely arise.
[To an Arab] “Hey, 7-Eleven called…Your camels are blocking the aisles.”
The unique thing about his comedy is that when he finished shooting his slings and arrow of outrageous insults, he announces to the audience that “It was all in fun.” He once said .”I’ve got a sixth sense that releases a trip-hammer in my mind warning me when I go too far…the presence of anger in an insult destroys the humor.” His philosophy is that if you can get people to laugh at bigotry, stereotypes, etc., you can help them see how foolish it all is.
Richard Lewis, Rickles’ costar on the sitcom DADDY DEAREST/FOX/1993 said of Rickles, “He insults everybody, he takes no prisoners, but he is a man with a golden heart. His type of ethnic humor will upset some people. But if you look at the total package, this guy’s message is that we should all laugh at ourselves.”
Don Rickles was a frequent guest of NBC’s THE TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson and has starred in three short-lived comedy series including THE DON RICKLES SHOW/ABC/1968-69; THE DON RICKLES SHOW/CBS/1972 and C.P.O. SHARKEY/NBC/1976-78. He also co-hosted FOUL-UPS, BLEEPS AND BLUNDERS/ABC/1984. Rickles also appeared on THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROAST programs.
Note: A documentary film entitled Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (2007) aired at the 2007 New York Film Festival and then on HBO. It featured an overview of the comedian’s career with recent interviews with him, commentary from several of his fellow celebrities, a performance at the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas in 2006, and some of Rickles’ notable television and movie appearances.