Rickles shows us how it's done - VIDEO
While we all mourn the demise of the celebrity Roast, I thought this might be a good time to reflect back on a time when the master, Don Rickles, used just the right combination of acerbic wit and what would today be called "political incorrectness" for hilarious results.
All comedians, in their own way, are skilled at keeping an audience engaged, but very few can match the likes of Don Rickles. There are a lot of angry comedians out there, and even some who aren't afraid to take a few shots at the audience, but Rickles' act was only ostensibly about insults. At its core, it was about creating a kind of communal moment in which no one was the butt of the joke because everyone was the butt of the joke.
The videos below are of Rickles' performance on The Dean Martin Show in 1967, according to Mark Evanier. Evanier points out that this was one of the first televised appearances of Rickles that showed him in his natural night club habitat. Many stars of the day are present: Bob Newhart, Barbara Eden, Dom DeLuise, Pat Boone, Ricardo Montalban and many, many others. Not a single one of them are left unscathed. Surprisingly, Pat Boone is the only one who manages to throw Rickles off his game, if even just for a moment.