NO JOKING AROUND, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
Imagine a comedian who insults everyone by race, gender, ethnic background and every other quality you can poke fun at. The audience loves it. No one walks out. No one calls for him to be banned or fired. Social media does not go ablaze with attacks. No Facebook postings, hash tags, capital letter tweets, re-tweets, shares, or re-blogs.
Everyone loves it. That probably would not happen today. A comedian can’t walk into a room, insult everyone, including the President of the United States, yet leave everyone calling for more. We seem to have lost our ability to poke fun at ourselves and our eccentricities. We certainly can’t laugh at stereotypes that grow up around our religion, our ethnic group, or our town.
Today, everything has to be politically correct. Any comedian who forgets that may be in for a short career. There was a time when a serious actor but outrageous comedian was able to take off after just about everyone. No one in the room was safe from his barbs, whether you had a front row seat or were anywhere in his line of sight, because that would also be his line of fire.
With a television career that began in the 1950’s, Don Rickles appeared in both comedies and dramas. He appeared in the classic 1958 Clark Gable movie, “Run Silent, Run Deep.” Other dramatic roles would come in the future but he gained his greatest fame as an “insult comedian.”
That’s right. He came out and insulted everyone and went home. I saw him at the old Mill Run Theater outside of Chicago. The in-the-round theater was perfect for the non-stop rapid fire comedian. By the time Frank Sinatra told Ronald Reagan’s people that Don Rickles, a Democrat, would play the Inauguration or they could get someone else to line up the talent, Rickles was already known as “Mr. Warmth,” because he was anything but that.
The resulting show was classic.
You may say, and perhaps rightly, that a comedian can’t get away with stuff like that today. Rickles has had a long, illustrious career as an actor and “The Merchant of Venom.” He ruled the late night talk shows and concert halls. We have lost the sense of humor that can allow comedians to act this way. Rickles is the only one left of the acerbic comedians of old who can get us to laugh at ourselves by insulting us and our foibles. In his 80’s, he proved to David Letterman he has not lost his touch for the outrageous. Poor Dave tries to conduct a serious interview.
Rickles still performs at 89 and has shows booked into 2016.