They called him Mr. Warmth – and nobody could hurl a sarcastic personal slur, a cutting comment or a put-down like Don Rickles. The greatest insult comic of all time, Rickles (who passed away today at age 90) was one of the few people who could say the most jaw-dropping things to celebrities, fellow comics, Presidents and every type of famous folk and get away with it. A single eye-roll from him could be devastating. Nobody talked shit to power better.
We’ve compiled a quick-and-dirty collection of some of his funnier fast-and-furious insults and one-liners in honor of the Merchant of Venom – a comedian who never met a person he couldn’t disparage. Thanks for the decades’ worth of laughs, hockey puck.
“Paul Shaffer … [you’re] an awfully nice guy, but there’s a new thing out there called food…” –Late Night With David Letterman, 1983
“You don’t have to call me ‘sir’ … King of All Jews is enough.” Late Night, 1983
“My Jewish wife was supposed to come with me today, but she couldn’t get off the bed … the jewelry was too heavy.” –The Dick Cavett Show, 1972
“Is that your wife, sir? Jesus… what was it, a train?” –Comic Relief V, 1992
[To Letterman, who said he was single] “Still lock yourself in your room with the radio on loud?” –Late Night, 1983
[to Robin Williams, upon seeing his forearms] “I’ve never met an ape.” –Comic Relief V, 1992
[to Johnny Carson] “This is a good jacket… come in with cotton candy tomorrow night, and you can work the carnival.” –Tonight Show, 1976
“I said, ‘Stand up, Frank, be yourself … and hit somebody.'” –recounting the time he first met Frank Sinatra on The Daily Show, 2008
“Orson Welles, this great man was married to a great many women. They’re all flat now.” –The Bob Hope Roast, 1974
“[Robert] De Niro is sitting there, he’s one of the great actors of our time. You ask him.” –AFI Tribute to Martin Scorsese, 1997
“You are a politician. Black, white, Jew, gentile, we’re all working for one cause: to figure out how you became governor.” –Ronald Reagan Roast, 1974
“Bob Hope couldn’t be here tonight, he’s looking for a war.” –Frank Sinatra Roast, 1978
“Clint’s idea of a good time is sitting on a pickup truck watching his dog bark.” –Clint Eastwood Roast, 1986
[To hippie-ish gentleman in the audience] “I didn’t recognize the guy with the beard. Good luck in Bethlehem.” –Jerry Lewis Friar’s Roast, 1971