You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Carl Reiner Pays Tribute to Don Rickles: ‘We All Knew of Don’s Heart’

Carl Reiner spoke about the late Don Rickles to Variety’s executive TV editor Debra Birnbaum, who transcribed his tribute below.

I’ve known Don Rickles a long, long time. My first meeting was very interesting. No one knew of him then. He had just come out here. I was doing a movie with Ernie Kovacs, and Ernie said, “There’s a guy at the Slate Brothers they say is very funny. I’m going with Frank Sinatra. Do you want to join us?”

The three of us sat there and watched this guy. He just ripped people apart. Everyone was laughing and screaming. I’ll never forget the first big laugh he got: Franklin Roosevelt’s son was in the audience. Everyone applauded him. Don said, “James, I was in Vegas the other day. I saw your mother there. She was standing behind the pillar waving her pocketbook over her head saying, ‘Want to have some fun sailor?’” The audience went nuts. He dared to do that kind of a joke in front of the son of the president.

The interesting thing about Don — and I got to know him because I used him in a movie called “Enter Laughing” — his history was not as a comedian. He was going to become an actor. He became a very good actor; later in his life he did a lot of movies, and proved that he was more than just an insult comic.
He was a pussycat. He cared more about his wife than anything in the world. There were two sides to him, and the biggest side was husband and father. He was a rare, rare creature. And it was a badge of honor to be insulted by the great insulter. Because we all knew of Don’s heart.

“Enter Laughing” came on the other day, and I called him to tell him I was reminiscing about our days together, but he wasn’t able to come to the phone. The next thing I knew, he was gone. It’s been a year of tragedy.

Nobody can touch him. He’s beloved in our industry. If you say his name, people immediately start to smile.

More TV

  • Ray Romano

    TV Roundup: Netflix Releases First Trailer For New Ray Romano Stand Up Special (Watch)

    In today’s TV News Roundup, Netflix teases new stand up special “Ray Romano: Right Here, Around The Corner.” FIRST LOOKS Ray Romano returns for his first stand up comedy special in 23 years with “Ray Romano: Right Here, Around The Corner.” Doing two shows in one night in Manhattan, Romano riffs on friends, marriage, and [...]

  • Kevin BarnettFOX 'Rel' TV show panel,

    Comedian Kevin Barnett Dies in Mexico at 32

    Kevin Barnett, the comedian behind Fox comedy series “Rel,” has died while on vacation in Mexico of unknown causes. He was 32. Barnett’s New York City-based comedy career was just taking off at the time of his death, having recently executive produced and co-created Fox TV series “Rel” alongside comedians Lil Rel Howery and Josh [...]

  • Can't We Talk About Something More

    Roz Chast Memoir ‘Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?’ to Be Adapted Into TV Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Famed New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is taking her sardonic wit to a television screen near you. Her best-selling graphic memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is being adapted into a half-hour television series by Shivani Rawat’s ShivHans Pictures and Ken Kwapis’ In Cahoots, Variety has learned. Emmy-winning writer Sheila R. Lawrence (“The [...]

  • Jesse Redniss Variety Entertainment & Technology

    WarnerMedia Debuts Content Innovation Lab Fueled by AT&T Tech

    WarnerMedia is launching an incubator meant to “combine emerging technologies with content from across its operating units to create new and innovative consumer experiences and businesses,” the company announced Tuesday. Led by Jesse Redniss, Turner’s executive VP of data strategy and product innovation, the WarnerMedia Innovation Lab is looking to integrate its intellectual property and talent [...]

  • Ilha de Ferro - Dante (

    NATPE: 5 Takes on Brazil’s Globo and Its 2019 Lineup

    MIAMI  — In hallowed tradition, Brazilian TV giant Globo unveiled its NATPE line-up on the first day of the Miami trade fair. With scripted and non-scripted promos playing to a thundering soundtrack Jerry Bruckheimer would have been proud of, this was, as ever for Globo, a polished and powerful presentation. But it also said much [...]

  • Live+7 Ratings for Week of Dec.

    Live+7 Ratings for Week of Dec. 31: 'Masked Singer' Premiere Grows by 40 Percent

    The series premiere of “The Masked Singer” continued to pay dividends to Fox in the delayed viewing numbers. In Live+7 for the week of Dec. 31, “The Masked Singer”–which already had the biggest Live+3 gain of any unscripted premiere ever–rose 40% from its Live+Same Day haul in adults 18-49 to a 4.2 rating. In total viewers, [...]

  • Paula Kaplan

    Viacom Digital Studios' Paula Kaplan Expands Role to Oversee Talent for Nickelodeon

    Paula Kaplan, the executive vice president of talent and development at Viacom Digital Studios, is expanding her role to new include overseeing talent for Nickelodeon. Kaplan’s new title will be executive vice president of talent and development for Viacom Digital Studios and EVP of talent for Nickelodeon. Kaplan will report to both Brian Robbins, president [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content