Don Rickles

On March 20, the “Merchant of Venom,” Don Rickles, spit his fire at The Orleans Showroom audience, and they were delighted. While age (84) might have slowed him down physically, Rickles is still sharp and full of piss and vinegar. A Las Vegas headliner for 52 years, he still bobs and weaves across the stage energetically, although he does use his deteriorating physical condition to garner laughs. For example, he repeatedly dropped the microphone, and then stared down his orchestra’s bandleader, demanding he pick it up.

“Mr. Warmth” poked fun at everything from marriage to The Orleans (“It’s nice to be playing a hotel that I know will one day close.”) As for his race jokes, if anyone else did such a cartoonish sketch of Japanese soldiers, there might be a backlash. But it seems impossible to be offended by Rickles. On the contrary, you want him to make fun of you.

My favorite blast of the night was when he called a fat guy “Tiny” and then asked him if he was married. After his foe answered negatively, Rickles exclaimed, “Of course, you get off a girl and she realizes she’s a waffle.”

His show is more than just jokes and jabs; it’s filled with songs including, “I’m A Nice Guy” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the latter of which is a tribute to the late actor Jimmy Cagney.

Rickles captivated his crowd with his trademark wit and storytelling of the old days. His act is old-school and he is truly the last of his kind, a dedicated lounge lizard who can play to any crowd at any time. His enthusiasm and enduring love of what he does spilled out to the audience, all of whom seemed to go home happy, especially the ones who were lucky enough to be made fun of by the king.

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Getting Lit, Neon-style

Soon after Kathryn Kruse enrolled in UNLV’s MFA creative writing program, she noticed something was amiss: There were no opportunities outside academia to read her work and hear the works of fellow students. So two years ago, she started Neon Lit, a monthly event held the last Friday of each month during the school year, usually at Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). This month’s Neon Lit brings six writers who are in UNLV’s graduate creative writing program to the stage. The reading will include poetry and fiction.