“Nobody ever dared with Frank, because he had such mood swings, and you never knew how he was going to react. But I could tell the minute I saw him that he was going to be in my corner.”

Quotes by Don Rickles

  1. After I graduated, I tried Broadway, which was difficult for me. It was tough to get a part on Broadway, so I just started talking to audiences at different social gatherings, and little by little I became Don Rickles – whatever that is.
  2. After over 50 years of headlining, I’ve been received very beautifully. But I always say, when you’re onstage, you can’t please everybody. I’m sure there are people who may not take to what I do, but that’s OK.
  3. Alan King, a comedian I adored, was considered society, and I was considered the Jewish kid from the neighborhood.
  4. Among my friends, I’m not a little Boy Scout, and they love my humor, thank God.
  5. An ‘insult comic’ is the title I was given. What I do is exaggeration. I make fun of people, at life, of myself and my surroundings.
  6. An insult is mean or unkind. Milton Berle called me the Sultan of Insult, and I was called the King of Insult. But the guy that gave me the best title – and I use it to this day – was Johnny Carson. He called me Mr. Warmth.
  7. Asians are nice people, but they burn a lot of shirts.
  8. At 90, I’m still working a couple of dates a month. My mind is very sharp on the stage, so why not? This may sound corny, but I do it because people – young and old – still come to see me, and they’re very enthusiastic about my work. They treat me like the Godfather.
  9. Being in the Navy, when I came home, it changed your whole life. You’re 18, you go away for two and a half years, you come home – boy, you’re a different person.
  10. Bob Hope was totally regimented. I go in and say a line like, ‘Hi Bob’ and I’d have to do it five times, and then Bob would take me to the writers to say the line different ways. He wouldn’t let me ad-lib.
  11. Bob Newhart, who is my best friend, is one of the guys I adore.
  12. Compared to what comics say today, I’m a monk, but in those days, it was unheard of to make fun of people like I did. Of course, they exaggerated how outrageous I really was.
  13. Compared to what some of the young comics use for material today, I’m a priest.
  14. Diana Krall I met in, I think it was Canada. She’s a lovely lady. Her husband, Elvis Costello, is a great star.
  15. Don’t call me ‘sir; ‘King Jew’ will do fine.
  16. Eddie Fisher married to Elizabeth Taylor is like me trying to wash the Empire State Building with a bar of soap.
  17. Even when I was in high school and the Navy, I was the guy who could rip somebody, and they’d laugh at it.
  18. Every night when I go out on stage, there’s always one nagging fear in the back of my mind. I’m always afraid that somewhere out there, there is one person in the audience that I’m not going to offend!
  19. Everything I’ve ever done in my whole career, people might not know, I’ve never written anything down on paper.
  20. Everything I’ve performed has been from my own head.
  21. Famous people are deceptive. Deep down, they’re just regular people. Like Larry King. We’ve been friends for forty years. He’s one of the few guys I know who’s really famous. One minute he’s talking to the president on his cell phone, and then the next minute he’s saying to me, ‘Do you think we ought to give the waiter another dollar?’
  22. Frank Sinatra. Hey, Frank, I saw you in ‘The Pride and Passion,’ and I want to tell you the cannon was wonderful!
  23. Funny is funny.
  24. Girls were scared of me because I can be loud. Barbara, my wife of 51 years, is very low-key. She was my picture agent’s secretary.
  25. Half the battle is that people have to like you before you say one joke, one bit of humor.
  26. Herb Solo at that time was the head of MGM. I said, ‘I want to live like Clint Eastwood.’ Did I know at that time Clint Eastwood, to him, Heaven was a truck, a dog, and a picnic basket for food or something?
  27. Honestly, I didn’t realize it – all of a sudden, I was 90. The years skipped by quickly. When it happened, I said, ‘Where did the time go?’
  28. I always rib people, but nobody ever gives me a hard time. I don’t know why. Maybe they’re afraid of what I might say. There’s probably a lesson in that somewhere, but I don’t know what it is.
  29. I always say, when you’re onstage you can’t please everybody. I’m sure there are people who may not take to what I do, but that’s okay. Thank God the majority are in my corner.
  30. I busted my bird for 60 years in the business, but my grandkids only know me as Mr. Potato Head.
  31. I call myself an actor. I always wanted to be one.
  32. I can get an audience screaming in Las Vegas and say, ‘Barbara, that was a great show,’ and she’ll say, ‘Would you please hurry up? We have dinner reservations at 9:30.’
  33. I cannot tell a joke. But I can do a situation, that it becomes a joke.
  34. I couldn’t sell air conditioners on a 98-degree day. When I demonstrated them in a showroom, I pushed the wrong button and blew the circuit.
  35. I did a few movies, but the word ‘star’… I cannot compare to a star like Clint Eastwood. I used to call Clint ‘Larry Dickman’ when he would come to my show; then, he started using the name when he would go under cover in a ‘Dirty Harry’ movie. That’s why he’s a movie star… he’s so creative.
  36. I did a picture 40 years ago with Carroll O’Connor and Telly Savalas, God rest their souls, and Clint Eastwood, called ‘Kelly’s Heroes,’ which we filmed in Yugoslavia for six months.
  37. I didn’t get married until I was 38.
  38. I do situations and make fun of authority and life.
  39. I don’t care if the average guy on the street really knows what I’m like, as long as he knows I’m not really a mean, vicious guy. My friends and family know what I’m really like. That’s what’s important.
  40. I don’t do impressions.
  41. I don’t drink much anymore, but when I traveled with Frank Sinatra, God rest his soul, I used to drink like I could do it. He made it a test. In Vegas, the Rat Pack, which I was a little part of, drank all night and slept most of the day. Then, about 5 o’clock, we’d meet in the hotel steam room, lock the door, and steam our brains out.
  42. I don’t have regrets. I’ve never sat here and thought, ‘Gee, if only I’d done ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ on Broadway, I would have been happier.’
  43. I don’t like to compare myself with anybody.
  44. I don’t practice or write stuff down – everything I do onstage was just made up before I went on.
  45. I don’t say I was the first, because, who knows, maybe there was a guy out in Minnesota doing it before me.
  46. I don’t walk into a dinner party and say, ‘You’re an idiot; give me my coat.’
  47. I enjoy mixed audiences, not one particular group. Short, tall, scientists, Jews, gentiles, whatever, as long as they breathe and like to laugh.
  48. I exaggerate all our selves, our beings. I make fun of everything: of our life and what we are. But I don’t tell jokes, really. I just exaggerate life, and it comes out funny.
  49. I have a problem, if the light goes on on TV and it blinks midnight, I don’t know how to fix it.
  50. I have a wonderful road manager, and he travels with me. And my valet and friend travels with me. My little entourage is great, and they take good care of me.
  51. I have my own gym. When you do jokes and they sell, you get a gym.
  52. I have no idea what I’m going to say when I stand up to give a toast. But I do know that anything I say I find funny.
  53. I have to have energy because I have a lot of expenses. A couple of cars, couple of dogs and a big estate.
  54. I like to think I’m like the guy who goes to the office Christmas party Friday night, insults some people, but still has his job Monday morning.
  55. I mean, in my – and I’m not trying to do spilled milk, but in those days it was a little – I think it was much tougher, because you got an image, and you were in a saloon. And it was tough to come out of a saloon and to get in films, and to maintain an image, you know.
  56. I never went out looking for glory.
  57. I ride a recumbent bike for half an hour every day.
  58. I say things I get away with, and it becomes a joke.
  59. I shouldn’t make fun of the blacks: President Obama is a personal friend of mine. He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke.
  60. I spent two and a half years in the Philippines in World War II.
  61. I still have drive, but everything is relative.
  62. I stopped smoking. But my personality I still have. I get up in the morning, and not everybody loves me, so if you want to call that a bad habit, there’s that.
  63. I think if I took therapy, the doctor would quit. He’d just pick up the couch and walk out of the room.
  64. I told jokes badly.
  65. I used to play golf. I wanted to be a better player, but after a while, I realized I’d always stink. And that’s when I really started to enjoy the game.
  66. I used to work over a bar. That was – there was no stage. I stood over a tiny bar. Louis Prima, rest his soul, he worked there. I was the guy that filled in when he was off the stage.
  67. I want to be a dog, but I’m a pussycat.
  68. I was 28 when my father died, and I was an only child.
  69. I was a big shot in high school – big into social events and at the dramatic society – and I always had trouble in school. Not because I was a dummy, but I was always busy being the Jackson Heights clown.
  70. I was a mother’s boy.
  71. I was always the guy – out of insecurities, I was always making fun, even as a kid.
  72. I was always the guy who made jokes and ribbed people at parties. After I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts I got sidetracked into clubs and started doing comedy.
  73. I was in World War II; I cried when they took me in the Navy. That’s the last time I cried.
  74. I was nice to the people in the Philippines for the two and a half years I was there, because I knew eventually I’d have to kiss up to them so my grandchildren could have toys.
  75. I was sitting in the toilet and I was by myself. I was tired of playing with the roller, so I said I’d better write a book.
  76. I write my own tweets.
  77. I’d like to think my performance is today. I never try to – it’s so, as you know, watching me, I have a beginning, middle and ending. But every night the show changes and I relate to an audience and I relate to the young people.
  78. I’m a New Yorker, originally. I was raised in Jackson Heights. I went to P.S. 148 and then Newtown High School. If World War II didn’t come, I’d still be there in school. World War II saved me.
  79. I’m not one of those guys who wants to die on a stage.
  80. I’m very shy so I became very outgoing to protect my shyness.
  81. I’ve been hot, I’ve been lukewarm, I’ve been freezing, but I’ve always been a headliner.
  82. I’ve been to Philadelphia a lot of times over the years, playing the old Celebrity Room and most of the other clubs around there that don’t exist anymore.
  83. I’ve got an accountant who’s been with me forty years. If he makes a mistake, he dies.
  84. I’ve never gone to comedy clubs.
  85. I’ve never had a written script.
  86. If I have learned anything, it is to keep my wife happy by sending her lavish gifts. Other men can learn from my success and send their wives and girlfriends fresh flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, and of course, Valentine’s Day.
  87. If I were to insult people and mean it, that wouldn’t be funny.
  88. If something strikes me as funny, I’ll put it in my performance.
  89. In our day we went from – we went into saloons. We couldn’t cross over like you can today, get a television series and all of a sudden you’re a major movie star, you know.
  90. In the 45 years I’ve worked in casinos, I dreamed of being honored by an organization like the American Gaming Association, especially since I don’t even have a hunting license.
  91. It takes many years to be a great comedian.
  92. It’s tough having the last name ‘Rickles.’ Luckily, my kids handled it great.
  93. It’s very sweet to have people say nice things about you, and I always accept that.
  94. Italians are fantastic people, really. They can work you over in an alley while singing an opera.
  95. Johnny Carson was a big influence on me – all of those shows I did with him over the years, like, 100 of them, they made a bit of a name for me at the time, so that part of my life was very good.
  96. Johnny Carson was king of the kings, in my opinion.
  97. Las Vegas is the boiling pot of entertainment.
  98. Many, many years ago, I stood on the stage and told bad jokes and did Sophie Tucker as an impersonation, and nobody looked up; and suddenly, I looked down and said, ‘Sir, I’m getting fed up with you. Either you watch, or I’m going to suck your neck,’ or words to that effect, and suddenly people started to laugh.
  99. Most people think the character I do onstage is the way I am offstage, but I’m just a regular guy who spends time with his family and who turns on the television and watches a lot of sports.
  100. My father was an insurance man and a small-time gambler. He was a good man, but he had an eye for the racehorses, and I saw how it used to bother my mother. I’ve never gambled a dime. Never, in all those years in Vegas.
  101. My grandchildren just know me now as Mr. Potato Head.
  102. My life was in Montreal years ago. Best food in the world.
  103. My mother was a Jewish General Patton.
  104. My mother was a big influence. She kept pushing me because I was very shy and inhibited. And schoolwork was very difficult for me because I couldn’t concentrate. I was failing almost every subject. To this day, I’m not too good at reading a book. But I was the president of my high school comedy group, and they treated me like a king.
  105. My whole act is off the top of my head.
  106. My wife came into my life, and my mother still wanted to be the boss.
  107. My wife is great. She always goes to the bank to see if the check has cleared.
  108. My wife, Barbara, is great. She arranges when I do work that I have a day off between performances.
  109. Ninety percent of the people who come to see me are my fans.
  110. No matter where you go in this world, you will always find a Jew sitting in the beach chair next to you.
  111. Nobody ever dared with Frank, because he had such mood swings, and you never knew how he was going to react. But I could tell the minute I saw him that he was going to be in my corner.
  112. Now when I’m not working, I don’t really hang out with the young comics.
  113. Once in a while, when I’m alone, I think about my age. I think, ‘How many more years do I have on this earth?’ But I can’t really conceive of dying.
  114. One thing a comedian does, when you step on the stage, you’re selling yourself, and certainly I don’t think the whole world can love you. But if you can get the majority on your side, you’re really in business.
  115. Political correctness? In my humor, I never talk about politics. I was never much into all that.
  116. Room service is great if you want to pay $500 for a club sandwich.
  117. Show business is my life. When I was a kid I sold insurance, but nobody laughed.
  118. Sinatra had a lot of mood swings, but he was wonderful to my wife Barbara and to me. He made no bones about who he liked and who he loved, and he had this great charisma. When he walked into a room, it stopped. I’ve only seen that happen with Ronald Reagan.
  119. Sinatra was somebody special.
  120. Smartphones. Who cares? Smartphones. I only have dummy phones.
  121. So, I’m on the satellite every Sunday, no matter where we are, with the Rams. Turn on the satellite; got to watch the Rams.
  122. Some people call me a legend and the last of the greats, and I appreciate it.
  123. Some people say funny things, but I say things funny.
  124. Somehow, in my head, I don’t think I’ll die. I know that everybody dies, of course. I just think that it’ll never come to me. It’s crazy, but there it is.
  125. Sometimes, I knew generally what I was going to do, but I’ve never written anything down. Call it a sixth sense: the lines just come.
  126. Struggling is hard because you never know what’s at the end of the tunnel.
  127. The average person pushes an elevator button 6 or 7 minutes before realizing it’s not working. I did a study on this, you know.
  128. The girls, like, in we’ll say Hooters, have less clothing than the girls I worked with in those days. We thought it was wild when they just wore little bells and so forth. But today, in restaurants, some of the waitresses almost work in the nude, you know, to get business.
  129. The highlight of my career was being at the inaugural gala of Ronald Reagan, and I owe that to Mr. Sinatra.
  130. The inaugural of Ronald Reagan, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And that was the greatest thing. Ronald Reagan and George Bush. That was – I still remember like it was yesterday.
  131. The man I adored, and miss him terribly, was Johnny Carson.
  132. The old days were the old days. And they were great days. But now is now.
  133. The thing I love about Vegas is that it’s a melting pot. It’s like working Ellis Island.
  134. The young comedians always ask me, ‘What’s the secret for staying around?’ I tell them, ‘There is no secret – just stay around. Longevity is the most important thing.’
  135. There’s a difference between an actual insult and a friendly jab. So I don’t think I’m offensive onstage.
  136. They always use the word ‘insult’ with me, but I don’t hurt anybody. I wouldn’t be sitting here if I did. I make fun of everybody and exaggerate all our insecurities.
  137. To me, the stand up part in my life is great. I know I can do that. When I get an acting chance, I’m really thrilled.
  138. To my knowledge, I was the first guy really to do what I do. And then later on different comedians started trying doing it.
  139. To this day, if you gave me $1,000, I really can’t stand up – You can tell a joke. You’re a good storyteller and a good joke teller.
  140. To this day, when I say that I went to the American Academy, people are very impressed. The reputation of the school has always been fantastic.
  141. We were Orthodox Jews, but we really didn’t deserve it. I mean, bacon – my father said, ‘Don’t put bacon in the house,’ but we had bacon. We didn’t keep kosher. And we observed which today would be Conservative Jews. But in those days, we belonged to an Orthodox temple. So we made out we were Orthodox Jews, but we really weren’t.
  142. Well, I call myself an actor. I always wanted to be one.
  143. What keeps me going is that young people still want to see me.
  144. Whatever you do to gain success, you have to hang in there and hope good things happen. Always think positive.
  145. When I got out of high school, I wanted to be an actor but was getting a lot of rejections. I was getting rejected by life. My mother, God rest her soul, told me not to quit.
  146. When I walk down the street in New York, I swear to God, the building constructor, the guy pounding cement and what not, will yell, ‘Hey, you hockey puck!’
  147. When I was a younger guy doing comedy, it was a big struggle. Promoters canceled me out of clubs left and right when I called somebody a dummy or a yo-yo. Then they realized I was different.
  148. When I’m onstage, I’m acting.
  149. When you do comedy, you can’t please the world, although I’d like to think that most of my audiences were on my side.
  150. When you enter a room, you have to kiss his ring. I don’t mind, but he has it in his back pocket.
  151. When you first start out with something new, you’re always a little uptight.
  152. When you stand alone and sell yourself, you can’t please everyone. But when you’re different, you can last.
  153. Who picks your clothes – Stevie Wonder?
  154. Why should I retire? I’m like a fighter. The bell rings, and you come out and fight.
  155. Yeah, I make fun of blacks, and why not? I’m not a black.
  156. You can’t study comedy; it’s within you. It’s a personality. My humor is an attitude.
  157. You got to have a lot of courage. Secondly, whatever it is you’re doing, you have to believe in it wholeheartedly. Thirdly, you have to be able to stand up in front of people and know that they’ll laugh.
  158. You know how a fighter always comes into the dressing room way before a fight? That’s me – I’m like a fighter.
  159. You know what’s funny to me? Attitude.
  160. You lose your energy, you lose that excitement and it gets the audience up.
  161. You throw your best punch, otherwise don’t do it.
  162. You’ve got to be able to sell yourself.

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