[[quoteright:271:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/don-rickles-pubshot_4674.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:271:It would be an insult '''not''' to be insulted by him!]]

If you hear the words "hockey puck" and think of ice hockey, you're a hockey fan. If you're a comedy fan, the visage of "Mr. Warmth" himself, the world's most beloved insult comic, will pop into your head... even if no one's quite sure how or why "hockey puck" came to be a put-down. What we ''do'' know is that Don Rickles had a unique gift for generating riotous laughs by making fun of his audience's weight, height, gender/sexuality, economic status, looks, and ethnicity without actually hurting any feelings... or suffering any broken bones.

The trick was actually no trick. Rickles was not some natural-born verbal bully who figured out a way to get paid for what he was already doing for free. The road that took him from shy child (with a beloved but dominating mother) to a true artist of the put-down was long and hard, and it pretty clearly concealed a heart full of mush. How else can you explain the near-universal fondness for a man who, dubbed "the Merchant of Venom", teased everyone from short-tempered show business legends to actual royalty, all of whom were proud to be skillfully dissed?

Born May 8, 1926, Donald Jay Rickles left his wartime service in the U.S. Navy in 1946 and headed not for the nightclubs of the BorschtBelt, but straight for the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Art. Serious about the craft of acting, genetics determined that the bullet-headed Rickles would never be a leading man, and years of mostly fruitless effort proved that the path to a career as a character actor was going to be long. Comedy seemed to be a quicker, if no less difficult, path. Over the years, Rickles discovered that traditional gags didn't really work for him, but "working the audience" did.

His democratically fearless way with the insult paid off famously when he spotted Music/FrankSinatra (pretty much the world's biggest star during the late 1950s) enter his club. Sinatra was the Creator/RussellCrowe of his day, but Rickles knew that his formidable mother was a good friend with the superstar singer's mother, so the all-but-unknown comic shrewdly gave Sinatra the Rickles treatment "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!" Fortunately for everyone, Sinatra laughed and became his most powerful fan, recruiting notables to pay for the privilege of being insulted by the prematurely-balding wisecracker.

Rickles' fame grew steadily until he became a true household name, lovingly insulting targets that included England's Princess Margaret, and generating huge laughs with numerous appearances on ''Series/TheTonightShow'' with Johnny Carson, on countless variety shows, and far more lucratively in UsefulNotes/LasVegas. In a much more modest way, his hard-earned acting chops were also paying off. His long film résumé includes compelling work in the 1958 submarine favorite ''Film/RunSilentRunDeep'' and two 1960s cult classics the war/heist comedy ''Film/KellysHeroes'' and Creator/RogerCorman's science fiction/horror tale, ''X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes''. It's clear there was more to Rickles than just comparing people to sporting goods.

Still, it's true that Rickles hasn't always gotten his due respect. Believe it or not, being an unofficial court jester to the Rat Pack was the antithesis of cool with younger audiences during the late 1960s and on into the 1980s. It didn't help that he had terrible luck when it came to headlining his own television shows. Two variety shows failed, while the Bilko-esque military comedy ''C.P.O. Sharkey'' managed to hang on for two seasons at the late-1970s dawn of the punk rock era. The network TV success enjoyed by his very close friend, ultra-low-key Creator/BobNewhart, simply wasn't in the cards for the overtly-abrasive Rickles, although he ''did'' make a number of memorable guest appearences in other people's shows such as ''Series/TheDickVanDykeShow'', ''Series/TheAddamsFamily'', ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'', ''Series/ISpy'' and ''Series/{{Newhart}}''.

Nevertheless, Rickles continued to shine as a hugely popular live performer. In 1985, Republican-convert Sinatra showed his support again by insisting Rickles be included on the bill at President UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan's second inauguration. A lifelong Democrat, Rickles considers his performance at the event a career highlight. He and the Chairman again appeared together at the inauguration of UsefulNotes/GeorgeHWBush in 1989.

Since then, Rickles, a two-time grandfather whose one and only marriage lasted well into its fifth decade, had never stopped working live. He continued to exercise his vastly underrated skills as an actor, including featured roles in Creator/MartinScorsese's ''Film/{{Casino}}'' and as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory'' trilogy. Gradually, that long-delayed respect started to be paid.

In 2007, film director Creator/JohnLandis (''Film/AnimalHouse'', ''Film/TheBluesBrothers''), who had worked as a very young P.A. on ''Film/KellysHeroes'', cemented his old friend's status with an outstanding biographical documentary masquerading as a television special. "''Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project''" emphasizes the humanity and simple human decency of its subject alongside his superhuman comedy chops when working with a live audience. The result was an Emmy for Rickles, and the chance to continue doing even more of what the world loved him for telling us we're all a bunch of jerks and making us feel great in the process.

Rickles passed away on April 6, 2017, at the age of 90.
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!!Tropes associated with Don Rickles:


* ActuallyPrettyFunny: Frank Sinatra was a big fan of Rickles, despite his relentless barrage of jokes about his infamous temper and alleged mob ties.
* AllGermansAreNazis: If he encountered one German person in the audience, he would often mock them with the Nazi salute and marching walk and asks, "Does that relax you?"
* AudienceParticipation: Naturally.
* BaldOfAwesome - Obviously.
** PrematurelyBald - Lost much of his hair in his early 20's.
* BerserkButton: His reactions to Creator/DavidLetterman's stutterings are comedy gold.
** In one famous ''Series/TheTonightShow'' clip, Rickles discovers Creator/JohnnyCarson's BerserkButton. While guest hosting one night, Rickles accidentally breaks the prized cigarette case that Carson kept on his desk. The next day Johnny discovers the broken box, asks who did it and takes a cameraman with a portable camera down the hall a few doors to the set where ''[[ShortRunners C.P.O. Sharkey]]'' was taping and confronted Rickles about it. Judging from Rickles' response, he really had not been let in on the joke and was genuinely afraid Carson was going to belt him right then and there.
* BoomerangBigot: Not really, but some of his "meanest" jokes are reserved for the Jews, [[SelfDeprecation even though he himself was Jewish]].
* CatchPhrase: Rickles had a lot of them.
** "If you want to pop the wife, gotta do what the Jews do; circle the bed first then get an estimate".
** "Now my wife just lays on the bed and goes, 'Is that about it?'"
** "My wife only sits at our Malibu home shining her jewelry and signaling ships."
** "I married a Valium."
** "How long have you had that?" *If he catches the host stuttering*
** "You gave him a cookie, he'll just go away, real pain in the ass."
** "So what do you want me to do, drop my pants and fire a rocket?" (David Letterman always get a kick about that that he often used it as a BrickJoke every time Rickles is on.)
* ComicalOverreacting: Done especially to a host that's annoying to him whether intentional or not.
* CoolOldGuy: He died a month before his 91st birthday, but he worked till the very end, and he was still as sharp as ever with impeccable comic timing.
* DeadpanSnarker: He was practically a god of this one, due to being the first of the insult comics.
* DirtyOldMan: During one of his visits to Creator/CraigFerguson, he flirted with some of the Swedish girls in the audience. "Wanna go to a party?"
* GrandfatherClause: Rickles is considered a relic of a bygone era of Classic Comedians (his contemporaries were Johnny Carson, Creator/RodneyDangerfield, Creator/JerryLewis, Creator/JonathanWinters, Creator/FosterBrooks, etc.) and also represented old time UsefulNotes/LasVegas, and people loved him for it.
* HandicappedBadass: Near the end, he started using a ClassyCane due to a flesh-eating disease that nearly took his right leg, but that didn't stop him from doing stand ups around the country (even up to UsefulNotes/{{Canada}}).
* HeterosexualLifePartners: With Creator/BobNewhart. The duo and their wives went on many trips together, and when on vacation, they were basically joined at the hip.
* InsultComic: The undisputed king.
* JerkassFacade: Very much a NiceGuy.
* [[NWordPrivileges J Word Privileges]]: One of the few people that could take full advantage in mocking Jews.
* LargeHam: The kind of ham that's marinated in hot chili.
* {{Leitmotif}}: When he was introduced to an audience or on a television talk show, the Spanish matador music "La Virgen de la Macarena" was usually played, subtly foreshadowing that someone was about to be metaphorically gored.
* TheMafia: Rickles spoke about performing at clubs run by the mob and how he saw other comics get beaten by heavies for offending the wrong person (and how, in one instance, Music/FrankSinatra demonstrated his own clout by stopping one such beating with a simple word). He also had a story where his mother told a table full of mobsters that she didn't want them carrying guns around her son when he was performing and how each and everyone of them, out of respect, promptly pulled out their guns and placed them on the table in the most polite way possible.
* MisanthropeSupreme: [[{{Understatement}} ...Yes.]]
* RapidFireComedy: One of the highlights of his stand ups was to go around the room, trying to "insult" as many people in the audience as he could.
* RecordedAndStandUpComedy: With his shtick being an insult comic.
* RefugeInAudacity
* TheRoast: During the Music/DeanMartin era, he was famous for being the only one not using the teleprompter. The Friars Club honored Rickles with a lifetime-achievement award, an establishment well known for their roasts.
* ScrewPolitenessImASenior: Many of the younger generations couldn't understand how this old guy could be so mean and insulting.
** Fervent admirer Creator/KathyGriffin calls it "The Rickles License to Kill," meaning that people over a certain age can basically say whatever they want and get away with it.
* SignatureStyle: Undisputed master in the art of insult comedy without resorting to filthy language.
* StillGotIt: Every time he visited a late night talk show, you could expect a lot of verbal burn-jobs thrown at the host. Classic examples were with [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL66MC88a-U David Letterman]] or [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brnp2AC4BjA Craig Ferguson.]] As usual, HilarityEnsues.
* {{Troll}}: At least, if you were a late night talk show host. Or any other talk show host even. It's what made his late night appearances (from Johnny Carson to Jimmy Kimmel) extra special. He was arguably second only to Creator/RobinWilliams in terms of derailing the interview and messing with the host and still making it hilariously funny.
* TrueCompanions: He was close friends with Bob Newhart. In fact, their wives were close friends before they knew each other. They often traveled together on vacation around the world before old age and infirmity settled in. They even spent with each other's families on their respective holidays (Newhart is Catholic, Rickles is Jewish).
* VocalDissonance: He always looked really old and sounded relatively young.
* YouKeepUsingThatWord: Rickles didn't like to be labeled as an 'insult comic'. He didn't like the word 'insult' and said that what he did was an "exaggeration", and was not meant to be mean-spirited or derogatory.
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