YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING

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.

10 thoughts on “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING

  1. Great post, Rich, and DEAD ON! I was thinking Rickles with your first sentence. I grew up and worked in an era where nothing was sacred. As a TV News Reporter with a modicum of celebrity, I used to love getting on elevators with my white colleagues and getting into rabid shouting matches. We could see the other passengers all but losing their lunch. Today, we’d be arrested for such behavior. Speaking of Rickles: Decades ago, a musician friend took me into Jilly’s Restaurant, one of Sinatra’s favorite hangouts. I met most of the gang, including Rickles and “Fat” Jack E. Leonard. The two insult jokesters unloaded on me. I just smiled. When they were done, I asked them what they did for a living. What a night!! These days, I am very careful about what I say. Marilyn is the same way. A pity.

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      • I’m glad Rickles is still working. I save my “stuff” for the family. I write politically incorrect things on the “whiteboard” on our fridge door. For instance, I use an inappropriate adjective to describe the color of the trash bags we need to purchase. Book me, Danno! Laughter is the perfect elixir for what ails our world.

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  2. A bit before my time but what a sharp cat. I think there’s a good few insult comedians around in the UK – Paul Chowdry, Jimmy Carr and the unbelievably outrageous Frankie Boyle to name but a few. You guys still have Family Guy of course, plus a good few of the Black comedians that the mainstream side-swerve. I think it’s gone in reverse. Most of the British comedians of yesteryear were of the tame ‘Royal Variety Performance’ calibre before Peter Cook introduced satire to the comedic arts. Then in the 80’s, the inspiration of comics like the legendary Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks released the satirical beast on the British comedy circuit and they were all at it… although the likes of Bernard Manning and Roy Chubby Brown were just crass, offensive and racist (annoyingly funny and hugely popular nonetheless).

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    • Thanks for adding names to the conversation. Perhaps the comedy on the UK said is more biting than it is here. We tend to be more politically correct for fear of backlash, except for Bill Maher with whom politically correct does not count.

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