Actor and comedian Don Rickles has passed away at the age of 90 due to kidney failure. He was best known for his pioneering brand of insult comedy, to which he turned after an unsuccesfully short stint as an insurance salesman and a rocky start to an acting career after he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. He got his big break in the late 1950’s (while performing in Hollywood according to most sources, but Miami according to Mr. Rickles) when Frank Sinatra came to see him perform and was immediately targeted by Mr. Rickles. He soon joined the Rat Pack, championed by Mr. Sinatra and Dean Martin (who made Mr. Rickles a regular on his celebrity roasts). Most of his successes came from his work in stand-up comedy and his regular appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (which started in 1965); he headlined several television shows with only one (1976-1978’s CPO Sharkey) lasting for longer than one season, and most of his most successful film work coming much later in his career.
Mr. Rickles is best known to animation fans as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise, playing the role in all 3 movies, 2 TV specials, and several short films and video games. It is not known whether he recorded anything for Toy Story 4, in production now and due for release in 2019. He also had a part in the 1998 feature film Quest for Camelot.
(Splash photo of Don Rickles in 2007: Richard Drew/Associated Press)