Don Rickles, the 87-year-old comedian known for his insults and politically incorrect humor sprinkled with Yiddishisms, will be performing this Thursday evening, June 20 at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. Since we have a lot of readers in the New York-New Jersey metro area, we thought you'd like to know whenever a major Jewish comic comes to town.
Born in Queens with the name Rikhters to a Yiddish-speaking family, he began doing stand-up comedy performing in hotels in the Catskill Mountains in New York. He became known as an insult comedian by responding to his hecklers. The audience enjoyed these insults more than his prepared material, and he incorporated them into his act.
Rickles is the subject of an article by Warren Boroson in this week's Jewish Standard. In the article, Boroson writes:
He has never played down his Jewishness.
One of his sons became a bar mitzvah at the Wall in Israel.
In his book, he writes that the Newharts (Bob Newhart is one of his favorite comedians) invite him and his wife over every Christmas eve. “Once in a while, Bob has a serious moment and says to me, ‘Don, you really enjoy Christmas, don’t you?’
“Sure I do,” Rickles answers. “One of our guys started it.”
He also writes that on the day of his wedding the phone rang at 4 a.m. in his hotel room in New York City. It was Cantor Yavne, from his childhood synagogue in Jackson Heights, who was to sing at the wedding in a few hours. He wanted Rickles and his cousin to meet him downstairs in a half-hour.
The cantor proceeded to drive Rickles and his cousin to the cemetery in Long Island where Rickles’ father was buried. “The cantor put on his white robe and prayer shawl,” Rickles said. “In the still of the morning, standing over my dear father’s grave, he sang the Hebrew prayer for the dead. He wailed; he sang with such tender feeling and heartfelt anguish that I felt the presence of God Almighty in every fiber of my being. Afterward, we recited the Kaddish, the Jewish mourners’ prayer, our words melting the morning fog to tears.
“Before we left, the cantor sang a prayer in Hebrew, inviting Dad to my wedding. Then he finished by saying, ‘May your soul be with us forever.’”For a good look at Rickles' humor, check out this 1993 interview with Larry King.
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