Ah, Don Rickles. Mr. Warmth, the Merchant of Venom, the man who perfected the comedic insult decades before Twitter or PC. When the curtains sweep open, Rickles is sitting in a gilded chair stage center, watching his standing ovation with the disdainful air of a jaded Oriental potentate.
Two guys have flown from Ireland to be here, which doesn’t stop Rickles from slinging a few drunk jokes their way—hell, they’d be disappointed if he didn’t. He’s delivered more shots below the belt than a thousand midget boxers and everyone from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Depp has taken the hit with a smile. And Rickles swings at everyone. ““I laugh about people,” he says, with a sincere smile. That guy in the third row who was told his beard meant he was “either gay or a rabbi?” He’ll tell his grandkids about it. Offended? “Ah, ‘Boo’ your ass,” snarls Rickles, “I didn’t invite you here.”
It’s been more than 50 years since Don Rickles was playing sets at 12, 2 and 5 o’clock in the morning in the Sahara’s Casbah Lounge. He’s one of the last practitioners of the old-style Vegas show: Today, comedians come out with a glass of water and a stool and play the “Did you ever notice…” game for 55 minutes. Rickles has a 13-piece band, sings, shows video clips and only recently stopped throwing in a little soft shoe. And they’ll keep packing the house as long as he does.