“This is not going to be our usual show tonight,” Kimmel said at the top of his monologue. “And I’ll tell you right up front that I’m going to cry — probably a lot, which is embarrassing. But I’m not good with this sort of thing and I’m sorry — especially to those of you who came here to see the show in person, because that’s probably not what you came for. But we lost someone that we and I love very much today.”
Rickles died on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 90.
“I was fortunate enough to — not only have Don on this show as my guest — but also to become close to him and his wife Barbara, which was a lot of fun for me,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel described Rickles as a towering presence in Las Vegas, where Kimmel grew up, and where Rickles found his greatest success as a stand-up comic. He also described the first time Rickles — who rose to fame as a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” — appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in 2006.
“It was so exciting,” Kimmel said. “I felt like I was in some kind of talk show host fantasy camp. Sitting behind a desk while Don Rickles made fun of me. It was like being a real talk show host for a minute. For twenty minutes, it was like being Johnny Carson.”
Rickles appeared on Kimmel’s show 17 times more in the years that followed.
Kimmel also talked about taking Rickles, famous for his insult comedy, out to Mario Batali’s Los Angeles restaurant Mozza. “We rented the private room in back,” Kimmel said. “We had food, I invited his friends — it was beautiful. It was very expensive. At the end of the meal, he said, ‘I can’t believe you took me to a pizza place.'”
Kimmel closed his monologue with a video tribute to Rickles, showing the best moments from the comedian’s appearance on the ABC show. Watch the video below.