Hey, Hockey Pucks: 9 Reasons Why Don Rickles Got His Own Spike TV Tribute Special
You may know him as Mr. Potato Head from Toy Story; you may know him from his classic appearances on The Tonight Show and Dean Martin celebrity roasts; you may have actually seen him perform in Vegas. But if you watched Spike TV’s One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles special, it’s a safe bet you learned a little something more about 88-year-old comedy legend Don Rickles.
Like, why an A-list group of celebs that included David Letterman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert De Niro, Tracy Morgan, Jon Stewart, and Johnny Depp showed up to give him hugs, kisses, and healthy servings of the insults he’s been delivering throughout his more than 50-year career.
Watch Jerry Seinfeld pay tribute to Don Rickles right here:
Here, a primer on how the king of insults earned himself an evening of ribbing (and, of course, a standing ovation):
1. As the most successful insult comic of all time, Rickles gets away with saying things no one else can. In the 2007 Emmy-winning documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, Chris Rock offers a theory on how Rickles has always gotten laughs with jokes that would be considered extremely politically incorrect coming from any other comedian. “Some guys just have that thing. It’s like, being funny is like being a pretty girl. You get away with a lot of s--t. It’s like he’s got big t-ts.”
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Jon Stewart speaks onstage at Spike TV's "Don Rickles: One Night Only" on May 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Spike TV)
2. His group of famous cohorts rivals Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack for coolness. Sinatra and the Rat Pack, in fact, were among Rickles’s closest pals, and he writes in his 2008 autobiography Rickles’ Book: A Memoir that he was regularly invited to join Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and the rest of the Pack for their 5 p.m. daily steam room sessions at the Sands in Las Vegas.
Sinatra, who nicknamed Rickles “Bullethead,” was introduced to him when Rickles’s mother befriended Sinatra’s mother in Florida and asked Mrs. Sinatra to encourage her son to help boost Rickles’s career. Rickles won Sinatra over when, the first time Sinatra went to see him perform at a Florida nightclub, he insulted him. “Hey Frank, make yourself at home!” Rickles said. “Hit somebody.”