Don Rickles Biography

Don Rickles was the man behind the whole concept of insult comedy. This biography of Don Rickles provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: May 8, 1926

Nationality: American

Famous: Jewish Actors Jewish Comedians

Died At Age: 90

Sun Sign: Taurus

Also Known As: Donald Jay Rickles

Born in: New York City, New York

Famous as: Stand-up Comedian

Height: 5'6" (168 cm), 5'6" Males


Spouse/Ex-: Barbara Sklar

father: Joseph Rickles

mother: Frances Rickles

children: Larry Rickles, Mindy Rickles

Died on: April 6, 2017

City: New York City

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Newtown High School

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Popularly known as ‘The Merchant of Venom’, Don Rickles was a man who was always ready to hurl insults at you, which surprisingly made you laugh. Donald Jay ‘Don’ Rickles was one of the most respected and popular talents in the entertainment industry. His quick wit and funny remarks accompanied by his genuine affection for his audience made him an irresistible combination of fun, amusement and laughter. He was a regular in celebrity roast circuits due to his incredible talent of making an insult sound inoffensive and funny. He attracted a lot of attention because his insults were mean and hurtful and also created a lot of buzz which added to his appeal. He started out as a conventional comedian performing rehearsed jokes but changed tracks on realizing that the audiences loved his impromptu insults more than the prepared material. His style endeared him to a number of fans that included the great Frank Sinatra. Knowing what a natural he was in comic insult and stand-up, it is difficult to believe that he originally intended to be a serious actor. His brand of insult comedy had earned him many nicknames such as ‘The Merchant of Venom’, ‘The Insultan’, ‘Mr. Warmth’ and ‘Master of Insults’.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Don Rickles could only find small roles in television upon his graduation. He began performing stand-up comedy to supplement his income, eventually developing his ‘insult comedian’ persona.
  • He made his film debut in 1958 as a serious actor in ‘Run Silent, Run Deep’. He started making a lot of appearances in television sitcoms and dramatic series over the next few years.
  • After his first guest appearance in 1965, he went on and made more than a 100 appearances as a guest and host in ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’.
  • During the 1960s he made many guest appearances in shows like ‘The Rick Van Dyke Show’, ‘The Munster’. ‘The Adam’s Family’, and ‘The Mothers-in-law’.
  • He kick started the 1970s with a very important role in the hit movie ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ (1970) starring Clint Eastwood. He made a number of appearances in television comedies like ‘The Don Rickles Show’ (1972) and ‘The Dean Martin Roasts’ (1973).
  • He starred in the sitcom ‘C.P.O. Sharkey’ in 1976. The episode in which he broke Johnny Carson’s cigarette box became the highlight of the show.
  • He started performing with singer Steve Lawrence at concerts in Las Vegas in the 1980s; both of them also co-hosted series like ‘Foul-ups’ and ‘Bleeps & Blunders’ in 1983.
  • Don worked in ‘Tales from the Crypt’ (1990), ‘Innocent Blood’ (1992), ‘Casino’, ‘Toy Story’ (1995) and ‘Dirty Work’ (1998).
  • The 21st century brought with it new opportunities for Don. In 2000, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His major television and film projects for the decade included ‘The Wool-Cap’ (2004) and ‘The Aristocrats’ (2005).
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  • His memoir titled ‘Rickles’ Book’ was released in 2007.
  • A documentary based on his life, ‘Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project’ was aired at the 2007 New York Film Festival and later on HBO.
  • Nearing 90, the great comedian shows so signs of slowing down. He still frequents late night talk shows like ‘Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ and ‘The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson’.
Major Works
  • An important breakthrough for Rickles was when he signed on for his first appearance on ‘The Dean Martin Show’. His first guest appearance on the popular prime-time variety show was a major success for Rickles.
  • Rickles’ live comedy album ‘‘Hello, Dummy!’’ hit No. 54 on The Billboard 200 album chart.
  • He is remembered as the voice of the outspoken and sarcastic Mr. Potato Head in the computer animated comedy adventure film ‘Toy Story’ franchise.
  • The documentary film based on his life, ‘Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project’ is one of the best known works of his career. The film received favourable reviews and two Primetime Emmy Awards.
Awards & Achievements
  • He received Grammy nominations for Best Comedy Recording in 1968 for ‘Hello, Dummy!’ and in 1969 for ‘Don Rickles Speaks’.
  • He was awarded a star on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000 for his immense contribution to live theatre.
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  • He won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program in 2008 for the documentary film ‘Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project’.
Family & Personal Life
  • Don Rickles married Barbara Sklar on March 14, 1965. They had two children; a daughter Mindy and a son, Larry, who died in 2011.
  • His best friend was Bob Newhart and the two often vacationed together with their wives. They have appeared together on many shows including ‘Newhart’.
  • He loves playing golf and tennis during his free time. Going to the movies was also one of his favourite leisure time activities.
  • Don Rickles died of kidney failure on April 6, 2017, at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
  • He was an immaculate imitator of Jack E. Leonard.
  • He made a surprise appearance as the dead husband of Elka on the original comedy ‘Hot in Cleveland’.
  • He was very good friends with Frank Sinatra and Don Adams.

1. Casino (1995)

  (Drama, Crime)

2. Kelly's Heroes (1970)

  (Comedy, Adventure, War)

3. Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

  (War, Action, Drama)

4. The Rat Race (1960)

  (Drama, Romance, Comedy)

5. X (1963)

  (Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi)

6. Enter Laughing (1967)

  (Comedy, Romance)

7. The Money Jungle (1967)

  (Thriller, Drama)

8. The Rabbit Trap (1959)



Primetime Emmy Awards
2008 Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (2007)

See the events in life of Don Rickles in Chronological Order

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