Comedy legend Don Rickles dies at 90

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Abrasive comic Don Rickles, known for his curmudgeon humor and rapid-fire insults, has died. He was 90 years old.

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Rickles died Thursday morning at his home in Los Angeles from kidney failure, confirmed by his longtime publicist Paul Shefrin.

Rickles was most known for being a self-described “aggressive” stage comedian and the master of put-downs.

In his career that spanned more than 6 decades, Rickles appeared in movies (from Beach Party films of the early ’60s to Casino in 1995) and multiple sitcoms and he also voiced Mr. Potato Head in three of Disney’s Toy Story films.

Rickles’ TV guest appearances include episodes of The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train, Burke’s Law, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., I Dream of Jeannie, I Spy, Get Smart(alongside his buddy, Don Adams), Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Sanford and Son, The Bernie Mac Show and Hot in Cleveland.

He regularly performed at nightclubs and popped up frequently on late night talk shows, even into his late 80s. Johnny Carson, a close friend who hosted him on the Tonight Show over 100 times, affectionately called him “Mr. Warmth”: “It’s sarcastic, but it’s true,” Rickles says.

Rickles, born in Queens, N.Y., to a Jewish immigrant father, served in the Navy during World War II and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1948. But he grew frustrated by small parts on television, reports USA Today.

“I was too big for the screen,” he told USA TODAY in 2012. “There was no director that knew how to handle me. My comedy, my strength, my aggressiveness, nobody knew how to handle that. I (auditioned for) all the big (Broadway) shows, but never got the part, so I started to get discouraged.”

It was then that he turned to stand-up comedy: “My father said the (temple) wants you to do this, they’ll give you $50. And then I started to develop my own stuff.”

Known for decades as the insult comic, he later disclosed that he had disdain for the label. “No, I don’t, but I got it, and it stuck with me and it didn’t hurt me,” he said. “Insult, to me, was always something offensive.”

In 1965, Rickles married Barbara Sklar, who survives him. His son, who produced the HBO documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, died in December 2011 at age 41.

Other survivors include his son-in-law Ed and grandchildren Ethan and Harrison. Funeral services will be private. Donations cane be made to the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

H/T: Hollywood Reporter, USA Today

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