Thursday, April 6, 2017

In Memoriam: Don Rickles (1926-2017)

Don Rickles
Growing up, I was a weird kid.

It's true.  I was just strange.

As I look back, I can't explain why I did some of the things I did as I grew up.  I just did them.

One thing I still have problems with is sleeping.  For my entire life, I've been a night owl.  I would often stay up until one or two a.m. watching television.  Late night television was my constant companion.

My parents allowed me to watch TV or listen to the radio because when they tried to make me stop, I would invent ways to bother them.  The kicker came one night when I claimed to have "thrown up" in bed.  Mom said she went in to my room, and there was a simple puddle of spit in the bed.  Eventually, we made a deal.  If I didn't bother them at night, they would let me watch TV silently in my room.

So, Johnny Carson became my best friend at night.  When I'd watch Johnny, I'd get through a couple of guests and find myself dozing off.  Before you knew it, the TV would still be on, and I'd be sound asleep.

Today, I lost another great friend.

Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles, passed at the age of 90.  I can remember being exposed to Rickles and his unique brand of humor through his many appearances on the Tonight Show. He and Carson had a rapport that few have been able to match in show business.  They knew each other so well that any appearance on the Tonight Show became a sort of dance of comedy between two kings of it.

Rickles, of course, had along career on his own spanning over 60 years in the business.  He outlived almost every one of his contemporaries in comedy and was a link between the past and the present in comedy.

He had a challenging brand of humor.  He claimed to never write jokes but would often play off the audience or the situation.  He was great at improvising and you can go back and watch some of his mastery of that stream of consciousness kind of humor on YouTube.  I've spent hours laughing at Don and his Tonight Show appearances as well as other appearances on other talk shows.

If you watch Rickles enough, you get a deep sense of the man he was.  A man with a sharp wit and cutting tongue, but a soft heart and bright smile.  Rickles almost always would thank the audience or the host from his heart at some point...before sticking in the knife with a good and winking one liner.  Rickles could be making fun of you, but he laughed with you and not at you.

I feel like I've lost a friend.  Goodbye Mr. Warmth, and thanks for the laughs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post! RIP