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Don Rickles

Comedy Impact Report '08: Tube Titans

In 1948, Truman was president, gas was 26¢ a gallon and Don Rickles fired off his first professional insult. Now, at 82 years spry and (still) sassy, the legendary “Merchant of Venom” (who has hurled harpoons at the biggest of whales, from Sinatra to Reagan) is hitting the peak of his game.

He won two Emmys for the HBO documentary “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project,” had his memoir “Rickles’ Book” become a bestseller and published a second rib-tickling tome “Rickles’ Letters” in October.

“Well, I think it was really my time to bust out with a little extra punch of recognition,” says Rickles, whose current success demonstrates a still-sharp comic instinct rich with political incorrectness and an ability to puncture celebs’ public personas without going blue.

These days, “Bullet-Head” (as Ol’ Blue Eyes affectionately called him) is still doing standup at major venues across the nation, from Vegas to Chicago to New York.

“I’m not mean-spirited, I don’t go for the jugular, and I’m not hurtful,” Rickles says. “That’s why I’ve lasted this long. Otherwise I’d be out of here by now.”

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