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American comedian and actor
Don Rickles, in full Donald Jay Rickles, (born May 8, 1926, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, U.S.—died April 6, 2017, Los Angeles, California), American comedian and actor known for a cheerfully belligerent brand of humour that relied heavily on ad-libbed insults and broad cultural stereotypes.
Rickles grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, the only child of Jewish parents. At age 18 he enlisted in the navy and served in the Philippines during World War II. After being discharged, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, graduating in 1948. Unable to find acting work, Rickles told jokes and did impressions at bingo parlours and at church and synagogue functions while employed at various sales jobs. In 1953 he moved to Los Angeles, where he accepted small parts on television and began performing stand-up comedy at nightclubs. Realizing that his off-the-cuff responses to hecklers drew more laughs than his written jokes, Rickles soon developed an act that in great measure consisted of loudly poking fun at audience members. Although Rickles’s barbs frequently centred on the physical appearance or the racial or ethnic identity of their targets, many audiences were amused by his exuberant and quick-witted delivery and took delight at being insulted.
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