With the presidential campaign going strong there are plenty of news items for late night comedians to poke fun at, but no one today could possibly be as biting as the King of the Insult Comics.  Not only has he been doing this for many decades, he is still at it.  From Johnny Carson to Jimmy Fallon as well as all the other late night hosts, this comedian has brought a brand of humor like no other.

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 do 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.  By the way, he had the “mic drop” down pat long before today’s comedian (and others) used it.

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.  Just a few months ago, Rickles stopped in by Jimmy Fallon just as he has done often with Tonight show hosts since Johnny Carson.

Don Rickles still performs his stand up act and is booked out to late in the year.

Don Rickles recently passed away. See him at Sunday Night Blog!


  1. Rich, on another subject. We’re into post season beisbol. I think the Cubbies have all the right stuff to go to the World Series and win. Of course, I’m hoping for a Red Sox-Cubs match up.
    Rickles doing color, pre and post game interviews?? It’d be a hoot!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to find Don Rickles was kind of hard on his audience but looking at that old clip with President Reagan he was hilarious. They took his ribbing in good faith.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, during one of my two Sinatra get togethers (Believe I’ve written about them), “Fat Jack” Leonard tried to intimidate me. “Fat Jack” had a lesser version of Rickles’ insult comedy shtick. Rickles listened as “Fat Jack” tried to take me down and then he jumped in with (paraphrase) “Hey, Fatso, leave the kid alone. He has something you lack, TALENT!”.

      Everyone (including Sinatra) applauded. “Fat Jack” shut up and Rickles smiled at me.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I love any and all kinds of humor, including and maybe especially insult humor. We take ourselves and the pride of others (Too often, those who feel the most insulted weren’t even the butt of the joke) waaaaay too seriously today….

    Liked by 2 people

      • Nice appreciation, Rich. I liked Rickles. Of course, I’m from the era where we did this kind of stuff in public.
        It might seem strange that a man of color would engage in “racist” banter with friends. But we did. It was a different era. In the early 70’s, when Boston was embroiled in the forced busing controversy, reporters from around the world converged on “The Athens of America”. Some trailed me to my favorite bars where – by pre arrangement — we had volatile “racial” name calling. When it was obvious that the out of towners were very uncomfortable, the laughter broke out. It was our way of dealing with the tension, anger and discontent that prevailed.
        I shared this story with Rickles who I met at “JIlly’s”, Sinatra’s old hangout. Don listened intently and then — in my face — said “So, what –you’re credit to your race? Can you dance?” He paused a minute — poker faced and then broke out in laughter.
        I wish we had taped that evening.

        BTW: I thought Rickles was a brilliant villain in “The Rat Race” (1960) with Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds.

        A final thought. You can’t compare Rickles’ “insult” comedy with the profanity laced stuff they do in standups now. Profanity by itself is NOT funny. Rickles didn’t need it.

        Thanks, Rich!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not a big fan of the insult school of humor, no matter who does it. I find it more painful than funny.

    For the record, “PC” may be a rule in the classroom, but I have never heard of any comedian required to be politically correct with the possible exception of those working on one of the three network TV shows during prime time. Otherwise, comedians are anything BUT politically correct. I have never heard of a comedian being fired, censored, or losing his show for political incorrectness. While it’s never cool to insult a sponsor or your own network execs, that’s not PC. That’s keeping your job, aka, survival.

    Actually, I think not being PC is what makes comedy funny. The only thing that gets a comedian fired or cancelled are (1) bad ratings, (2) upsetting the sponsor(s) (’cause they’re the folks who pay your salary), and (3) making fun of your boss(es) on the air.

    And, of course the final BIG reason — not being funny.

    Liked by 2 people

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