Jewish Comedian Don Rickles, Master Insult Comic, Dies Aged 90

Yiddish speaking stand-up comedian dies of kidney failure after long and succesfull career

Comedian Don Rickles speaking during a Hollywood Walk of Fame star presentation ceremony in Hollywood, 2011.
AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK

Don Rickles, the master insult comic died on Thursday at his Los Angeles home from kidney failure, his publicist said. He was 90.

Rickles was known for his intense, often-ad libbed, rapid-fire delivery and a wide, impish grin. He delighted nightclub audiences, Hollywood royalty and politicians by hurling invective at them and his style eventually earned him the sarcastic nickname Mr. Warmth.

The Jewish stand-up comedian, was also known for his frequent appearances on the likes of the "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Rickles, who said he developed his brand of humorous mockery because he was no good at telling traditional jokes, had recently postponed some performances, including a show set for May in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was pushed back to November just this week.

Having grown up in a Yiddish speaking home, Rickles was a long-time Democrat supporter, but had no qualms performing at the inaugurations of Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The most frequent targets of the "Merchant of Venom" were his fans who packed his performances for the chance to be belittled as a "dummy," a "hockey puck" or worse. Celebrities often showed up just for the honor of being mocked by Rickles, and no minority or ethnic group was immune to a Rickles tongue-lashing.

The New York native had most recently provided voice-over roles as the grumpy Mr. Potato Head in the “Toy Story” film.

Rickles is survived by his wife of 52 years, Barbara, as well as their daughter, Mindy Mann, and two grandchildren. He would have turned 91 next month.