Veteran actor Don Rickles dies

Comedian Don Rickles poses for a photograph before signing copies of his new book “Rickle’s Book” at Book Soup May 31, 2007 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

ACTOR and comedian Don Rickles, whose pioneering brand of insult comedy earned him the nickname “Mr Warmth,” has died in Los Angeles aged 90.

Rickles would pace the stages of nightclubs and late-night talk shows seeking out “victims” in the audience, poking fun at their weight, ethnicity and dress. 

But Rickles also was a serious actor who trained at the famed American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and he had supporting roles in a number of memorable films including Kelly’s Heroes with Clint Eastwood, Run Silent, Run Deep with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, and Casino starring Robert De Niro.

Younger audiences would recognise his voice as that of Mr Potato Head in the Pixar film Toy Story and its sequels. 

Rickles was born and raised in Queens, New York. His father, Max, immigrated to the United States as a child from Kaunas, Lithuania. His mother, born in New York, also was the daughter of Jewish immigrants.

Rickles served in the US Navy during World War II, and after his service honed his act at small and often seedy nightclubs.

“I had a tough time – I had no other jobs – so I reached out to comedy,” he said in an interview in 2013. 

Rickles first appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965, and returned as a guest at least 100 times.

Rickles is survived by his wife Barbara and daughter Mindy. Their son, Larry, an Emmy Award-winning producer, died in 2011 aged 41.

JTA