Don Rickles: Funny man (and Jackson Heights native) is still quick with the insults
Special to amNewYork
Don Rickles is so politically incorrect, he makes Bill Maher look like Barack Obama. The king of insult humor returns to his native New York for and his first target is old neighborhood in Queens.
I grew up in Jackson Heights, Rickles says while calling from his Los Angeles home. Jackson Heights has changed a lot. Its changed so much I call it Haiti.
Rickles, 82, doesnt care who he offends and thats part of his appeal. I do what I do, he says. People know what to expect of me.
But that wasnt so when Rickles initially showcased his insult humor during the 50s. Back then, he was the anomaly on the circuit.
To my knowledge I was the only person doing what I was doing, Rickles says. It was a big struggle in the beginning. Anytime you do anything different, well, thats how it goes.
By the 60s, his star began to rise. Johnny Carson became a huge fan and Rickles became a regular on The Tonight Show.
Johnny had a great feeling for people and talent just like David Letterman does today, Rickles says.
Frank Sinatra enjoyed the comic so much that the charismatic curmudgeon didnt just land steady work in Las Vegas, he became a close friend of the Chairman of the Board.
Frank was the best, Rickles says. He was one of a kind. He had a great sense of humor.
Rickles has appeared in the film Casino, and lent his voice to Mr. Potatohead in Toy Story and Toy Story 2.
Those are such great movies, Rickles says. To work with (director Martin) Scorcese was a treat and the Toy Story movies are fabulous. My grandchildren love them.
Rickles will reprise the cranky spud for Toy Story 3, which is slated to hit theaters in 2010.
Ill work on something if its fun, Rickles says. But I dont work as much as I used to.
The schedule Rickles keeps - 30 stand-up dates a year - suggests he is close to calling it a career.
It might seem that way, but Im still going to go out there, he says. I still have my health. I love performing and getting up in front of a crowd and hearing them laugh. In some ways I cant imagine life without the laughs. The only way for someone to understand what I do is to actually do it [stand-up]. Its like therapy. But I dont push it too far. My dance card is pretty full.
Would the cranky performer consider playing a crotchety character in a sitcom ala Jerry Stiller? Rickles, who has appeared in a plethora of TV shows since the 60s, would be perfect for such a part.
I think that time came and went, Rickles says. I dont have to do anything like that right now. Im a pretty happy man. I like playing out. Thats enough for me.
Don Rickles appears Thursday and Friday at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., Tickets are $49, $79 and $129. Show time is 8 p.m. For more information, call 212-840-2824