Everyone else came with scripts. Don Rickles came only with attitude.
Don Rickles was the master of the roast. Dean Martin. Frank Sinatra. Ronald Reagan. Bob Hope. The names of those he tormented are the names of American history. He made fun of their ethnicity, their intellect, their origins and their shapes. Nothing was sacred. And except for a few regular jokes, he improvised it all.
Another great in American comedy history, Robin Williams, followed firmly in Rickles’ footsteps. The Don of the Roast and the legendary Billy Crystal both remember Williams over dinner in L.A. Williams avoided the insult comedy that was Rickles’ staple, but he took improv to a whole new level. It was evident in both his films (movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Good Morning, Vietnam) and in his stand-up routine.
The last time these three legends of comedy were on the stage together, Crystal won a $1,000 bet with Williams after wagering that Don would slap one of them silly on stage. Rickles didn’t disappoint.
Rickles was on stage until the very end. Before he passed in April, he tells Crystal he was doing as many as 20 shows a year and still had dates in his calendar. He and Regis Philbin toured together. “It was a mercy thing,” Rickles quips.
Even at the very end, Don Rickles never lost that attitude.
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The series was produced by AARP Studios, Winbrook Entertainment and Stamper Lumber Company.