Don Rickles’ death reverberated through the comedy world Thursday, as comedians both young and old took to social media to remember Rickles, and express what the legendary comic meant to them. The outpouring continued on late night, where Rickles was a constant presence up until his death.
Seth Meyers recalled the first time he met Rickles, when he gathered up all his courage and introduced himself at a party. “He just looked at me and said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear Saturday Night Live was canceled,‘” Meyers said. When he told Rickles that show hadn’t been cancelled, Rickles shot back: “Ugh, a guy can dream.”
Stephen Colbert’s first interaction with Rickles went a little differently, when he met the comedian backstage at the 2008 Emmy Awards after Rickles beat him out in a category they were both competing in. “The better one of us won, and I went over to congratulate him,” Colbert said. “And he hugged me and told me I was good. And I felt like a made man. Because we all should have his career and be who he was.”
Jimmy Fallon also remembered the many times he was personally insulted by Rickles, which for a comedian, was something of a badge of honor. “I’ve personally been out to dinner with him a few times where he said some truly, truly mean things to me, which if you’re a fan, that’s an honor,” Fallon said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out his family.”
The most emotional tribute last night came courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel, who developed a relationship with Rickles that extended far beyond the confines of his studio. That said, Rickles did appear on Kimmel 15 times over the last ten years, and despite his physical health rapidly deteriorating,he was always the sharpest guy in the room. Kimmel recalled what it was like the first time he sat across from Rickles on live television. “It was so exciting,” he said as he fought back tears. “I felt like I was in some kind of talk show host fantasy camp. Sitting behind a desk while Don Rickles made fun of me was like being a real talk show host for a minute.” Kimmel then played a compilation of his favorite moments with Rickles, and added: “There will never be another Don Rickles. He was probably the greatest talk show guest of all time.”