The Schmear Chronicles


Don Rickles: The Jew Crush

Hockey Pucks and Dummies are feeling the loss

Whenever a laugh was needed Don Rickles supplied it. Now we need him more than ever. Rickles who would have been 91 in May, died in his Los Angeles home on Thursday morning and an emptiness has been felt in the comedy world by fans and fellow comedians. Born in Queens to a Jewish family, his parents spoke Yiddish at home and his material would often reference Judaism (as it would all religions, races and creeds). Known as an equal opportunist insult comic, Rickles would obliterate audience members and celebrities alike. He even called himself the “matador” as he would metaphorically gore people. We have always loved Don and now we will miss him greatly.

Seven reasons we have a Jew crush on Don Rickles

1.Stand-up beast. Rickles, who began performing stand-up comedy in the 1950’s had one of the longest-spanning careers in comedy, telling jokes and touring for over six decades. Even after his health began to fail, Rickles was performing and toured the U.S. as recently as this past year.

2. Acting range. Though he was primarily a funny man, when people think of Rickles, they think tough and pugnacious, so it was more of a natural fit than one might guess that he played a mafia man in the Martin Scorsese 1995 film, “Casino.” Rickles had a knack for dramatic acting and his debut film was a World War II submarine drama. In fact, after being honorably discharged from the US Navy, Rickles studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

3. Rat pack. Not many people would have the matzah balls to sit in Frank Sinatra’s chair at a restaurant, let alone tear the beloved singer and actor to shreds in front of thousands of people. But Rickles wasn’t in the majority. A member of the elite rat pack, Rickles would often eviscerate his friend from the stage, mocking his career and belittling his fandom.

4. Capturing the Don. Rickles, known facetiously as “Mr. Warmth,” Rickles who would oftren refer to his audience members as “dummies” or “hockey pucks,” wrote a memoir in 2007 called “Rickles' Book.” That same year, John Landis directed a documentary about him that debuted on HBO earning Rickles an Emmy Award.

5. Muse. To be in the audience of a Rickles' show, one had to have tough skin. But many who knew him testified that his off-stage persona was a dramatic departure from his abrasive shtick, and that he was in fact, quite a sweetheart. Throughout his career his influenced many comics and in 2014, he was honored by Spike TV’s “One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles.” Led by master of ceremonies Jerry Seinfeld, comedians and actors contributed to the evening including David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan and Regis Philbin.

6. Mr. Potato Head. What many may not realize is that the charming, hoarse voice behind the loveable if not eccentric Mr. Potato Head from the “Toy Story” franchise was none other than Mr. Rickles. He once joked that his grandchildren were more impressed with his role as the starchy sidekick than any of his other accomplishments in his life.

7. TV and comedy albums. Rickles, whose chief gravitas was skewering the helpless from stage, also had a pretty rich catalog as a television actor. He appeared in number of shows, some more successful than others, including “Get Smart,” “Run For Your Life,” “The Dean Martin Show,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Munsters” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” He also recorded two comedy albums, “Hello Dummy!” and “Don Rickles Speaks.”

He will be missed and as always — it seems he had the last laugh. 

Don Rickles

Don Rickles death

Don Rickles dead


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