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Don Rickles, Iconic Comedian and Actor, Dead at 90

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Don Rickles’ talents were seemingly limitless: An outrageous insult comic, a gifted dramatic actor, a welcome sight on stages and screens (big and small), and a constant presence whose career endured for decades, often surpassing his contemporaries. And now he’s gone on to join them, as the legendary Rickles passed away today, April 6, at the age of 90.

The actor and comedian’s longtime publicist Paul Shefrin confirmed the news to Variety, revealing that Rickles died from kidney failure on Thursday morning. Rickles was best known for his sensational work as an irritable stand-up comic who specialized in insult comedy and was frequent guest on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson and the Late Show With David Letterman — the former made him a household name, leading to TV guest spots and a variety of film roles.

Despite his comedic background, Rickles displayed a remarkable knack for dramatic acting with his memorable supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. With a career that spanned some 60 years, Rickles appeared in everything from films like Beach Blanket Bingo and Dirty Work, to TV shows like The Thin Man, The Beverly Hillbillies and Get Smart. His insult comic skills made him an epic guest at celebrity roasts — including his infamous roasting of Frank Sinatra (Rickles was an honorary member of the Rat Pack).

Rickles continued to work well into his 80s, performing stand-up and appearing on late night talk shows. He lent his famous voice to the role of Mr. Potato Head in Pixar’s Toy Story films, and in 2007 he won Primetime Emmy Award for Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, a documentary about the comic and actor directed by John Landis.

As recently as 2014, Rickles publicly denied thoughts of retiring, and, despite health issues, continued touring and performing in the years that followed.

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