Insults and comedy go together like a shot of tequila and a wedge of lime. The combination can either create a really good time, or send you packing with a feeling of regret worse than any hangover.
It’s not easy walking the line between being funny and offensive, as many comedians have been criticized recently for making fun of people with their seemingly insentive jokes. From Joan Rivers to Stephen Colbert, no performer is safe in our politically correct world.
However, for Don Rickles, who performs at Foxwoods on Saturday, the pioneer of “insult” comedy has walked this line with relative ease for over six decades. And for the most part, the legendary comic has stayed out of trouble because, well, his insults aren’t really insults.
“It’s an exaggeration. I put people on with exaggerations,” Rickles recently told Boston.com. “A couple of guys have named it ‘insult,’ but it’s not. Everybody would be leaving if I was really insulting.”
While he respects the way other comedians approach the craft, Rickles takes a different, much more old school approach to cracking jokes at the expense of others. Whether it’s calling out audience members or joking about a celebrity, everything is done in a fun, light-hearted manner.
“It’s just my personality,” Rickles said. “It’s not jokes so much, it’s a lot to do with attitude. My attitude is funny. I mean, I’ve proven that because, after 50 some odd years in the business, they’re still showing up.”
“What I do is very kind, believe it or not. Otherwise they wouldn’t laugh. I know how to deliver a remark and it comes out kind. I love that.”
Never at a loss for words, the quick witted comedian wasn’t always so extroverted. He credits his late mother for helping him come out of his shell and pursue a career as a performer.
“She was the one that was always my inspiration,” Rickles said. “She kept saying, ‘You can do it, you can do it.’ And basically, I was a very shy young man, that’s unusual, but a lot of actors were when they were young.”
While the 87-year-old comic has been packing theaters since Harry S. Truman was president, don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.
“Comedy is my living,” Rickles said. “I did some movies in my career, but I was very fortunate to catch on with comedy. That’s the only thing I ever knew. I had jobs selling insurance, you know, odd jobs like anybody else to stay alive. But my whole life was dedicated to being a comedian.”Matt can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter @MattchidaMMA.