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Donald Jay Rickles is an American comedian and actor.
Early life and career
Rickles was born in Queens, New York City to Jewish parents. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Cyrene until 1946. Two years later he began doing stand-up comedy. He eventually became known as an insult comedian. The audience liked these insults more than his prepared material, so he developed that part of his act.
While working in a Los Angeles nightclub early in his career, he spotted Frank Sinatra. Sinatra enjoyed Rickles so much that he encouraged fellow celebrities to see Rickles' act. Sinatra's support helped Rickles become a popular headline performer in Las Vegas.
Often when Rickles is introduced to an audience or on a television talk show, Spanish matador music will be played subtly foreshadowing that someone is about to be metaphorically gored. Rickles has said "I always pictured myself facing the audience as the matador." In 1958, he made his film debut in Run Silent, Run Deep. Throughout the 1960s, he appeared frequently on television in sitcoms and dramatic series. He also appeared in the popular Beach Party film series.
As his career progressed, he made more and more appearances on television talk shows, making his first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965. He became a frequent guest and guest host and would go on to make over 100 appearances on The Tonight Show throughout the rest of its run during Carson's era. He also began making frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Show which continued until 1984.He came out with the live comedy album Hello, Dummy, in 1968, which reached #54 on Billboard's Hot 100. That same year, he starred in his own variety show The Don Rickles Show which lasted for one season.
Rickles had a notable role as the con man Sgt. Crapgame in 1970, in the hit film Kelly's Heroes with Clint Eastwood. he starred in the sitcom The Don Rickles Show in 1972. In 1976, he began starring in the sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey which lasted for two seasons. During production of the series, Rickles appeared on The Tonight Show with guest host Bob Newhart.
In the early 1980s, Rickles began performing with singer Steve Lawrence in concerts in Las Vegas. In 1983, the duo co-hosted the short-lived ABC-TV series Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders.When Frank Sinatra was asked to perform at Ronald Reagan's Inaugural Ball in 1984, he stated he would not perform unless Rickles was allowed to perform with him. Rickles considers this performance the highlight of his career. He starred in another short-lived sitcom in 1993, Daddy Dearest, with comedian Richard Lewis. In 1995, he made a return to film in two high-profile projects: a dramatic role as Robert De Niro's trusted colleague in Martin Scorsese's Casino, and voicing Mr. Potato Head in the Pixar computer-animated film Toy Story.
Rickles continues to be very active on the stand up comedy scene to this day. He is still a popular performer in Las Vegas and has many dates booked through the end of 2007. He has no plans to retire.
In February 2007, Rickles made a cameo appearance in a strange, recurring dream sequence that was woven through an episode of the CBS dramatic series, The Unit. Rickles' memoir, Rickles' Book, was released on May 8, 2007 by Simon & Schuster. A documentary about him directed by John Landis is scheduled for release in 2007.
Rickles and his wife Barbara are fast friends with comedian Bob Newhart and his wife. Rickles has been married for over 41 years to his wife, who hails from the Winnfield section of Philadelphia. He and Barbara have a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.
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