Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rickles Still Tickles

Friday May 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   I forgot to mention yesterday that it was the birthday of Don Rickles, who turned 88. He’s been one of my very favorite comedians my entire life, and one of the few big names I haven’t crossed paths with at some point. I almost got to meet him once, but then he had to cancel due to illness.

   He is the elder statesman these days as far as comedy royalty goes, and there will never ever be another like him for many reasons. He was able to pull off an extremely delicate style of comedy that is quickly being exterminated by the insane oversensitivity of modern political correctness.

   There is a barely visible fine line between outrageously funny and over the top offensive, and Don has been able to walk it masterfully for decades. Not many could come close to doing what he does, although many have tried and failed miserably. Don would be the equivalent of the guy that gets paid to diffuse bombs. One wrong maneuver, and there’s no 401K or a retirement plan.

   But with great risk comes great reward, and Don Rickles has forged himself his own one man brand that still identifiable today. He was on TV when I was a kid, and he’s still on today. He’s a lot older now, but the basic act is still the same. How many musicians have hung on that long?

   Part of what makes him so great is that he has off the charts likeability. The audience can sense his insults aren’t meant to be hurtful, and that’s EVERYHING when doing that style of humor. If he were a dashing young bull hunk with a full head of flowing hair and a mouth full of piano key teeth, he or anyone else would be hard pressed to pull off the act he does. He’s the perfect patsy.

   Another part of what makes him so great in my opinion is his consistent ability to work in such a wide variety of situations. I’ve never seen him live, but on television he’s been tremendous as a roaster on the Dean Martin celebrity roasts, a powerhouse guest on almost every talk show in the history of the genre and he’s also a more than competent actor appearing on many classic shows.

  I happen to love his work as do millions of others, but there are some that think he’s some kind of racist or bigot. This proves to me how out of control political correctness is, and that’s a whole other topic for another time. Rickles is great because he rips EVERYBODY, and that’s not easy.

   His 1967 album “Hello Dummy” could not be released today without the Jesse Jacksons of the world organizing protest marches and demanding him to be reprimanded by the government. It’s insane, and I even saw Rickles get booed on Letterman for cracking an Obama/basketball joke. 

   Lighten UP already, o pompous and holier than thou world. It’s a JOKE. Nobody can take any jokes anymore, and I think the world is much worse off for it. Rickles points fingers at himself as well as everyone else, and he says a lot of things people think in a funny way. I’m still a big fan.

   Standup comedy is difficult enough, but what Don does is way past that. Ripping somebody is a specialized art – especially without offending. It’s easy to rip someone at their own expense to get a laugh from the audience, but doing it without hurting the target’s feelings is not easy to do.

   Jay Leno talked about that in an interview once where he said if he saw a bald guy in the crowd he’d rip him about his ugly shirt instead of being bald. The guy would love it because it didn’t go where everyone else did, and I get that concept. I’ve used it myself, and it works really well. Don Rickles is the absolute master of insult comedy, and to still be doing it at 88 proves his greatness. 

Don Rickles is he elder statesman of standup comedy these days at 88. He's still going strong at 88. I should be so lucky.

His comedy album "Hello Dummy" would get all kinds of people upset if he released it today. Political correctness has polluted not only comedy, but the world.

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