Don Rickles, 1926-2017: Legendary Insult Comic Dead at 90

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Don Rickles, 1926-2017: Legendary Insult Comic Dead at 90

Don Rickles, the famously abrasive insult comic and actor, has died at age 90, according to his publicist Paul Shefrin.

Rickles died from kidney failure in his Los Angeles home this morning. Having been in the business for more than 60 years, Rickles would have turned 91 next month.

The legendary “Merchant of Venom” was best known for his many club performances, his associating with (and roasting of) the Rat Pack during their Vegas heyday, and a number of film performances that extended late into his career. Alongside his role in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 classic, Casino, the stand-up was set to reprise his role as Mr. Potato Head in 2019’s Toy Story 4. Most notably, he made more than 100 appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson over the years, and continued to come on the show long after Carson’s death, even if it was usually to reminisce about that host’s days on the show. And it was recently announced that Rickles had a new show in the works, a Comedians in Cars-esque interview series called Dinner With Don.

While, as an outspoken opponent of political correctness, Rickles’ material would likely would never fly if it were new today, his contemporaries remember him as a sweet man above all else. Bob Newhart and his wife said in a statement today, “He was called ‘The Merchant of Venom,’ but in truth, he was one of the kindest, caring and most sensitive human beings we have ever known. We are devastated and our world will never be the same.”

Rickles is survived by Barbara, his wife of 52 years, and his daughter, son and two grandchildren. His family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.