Don Rickles, legendary insult comedian, dies at age 90

PHOTO: Don Rickles is an American actor and stand-up comedian. Birthday 5/8 1926, Photo Date: 4/10/16, credit: ZUMA Press

LOS ANGELES (WJHG/WECP) - Don Rickles, the legendary insult comic who made fun of everyone and everything for more than six decades has died. He was 90.

The comic died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles of kidney failure, publicist Paul Shefrin announced.

Tributes from comedians and stars came pouring in as word of his death spread. Danny DeVito wrote on Twitter "Awwww man Rickles is dead. Rest In Peace Buddy."

Craig Ferguson tweeted "Aw jeez. Rickles .Sweetest, funniest, legend and mensch. Came to a party at my house gave me a dollar and told me to get a nicer place.#RIP."

Jason Alexander tweeted "Don Rickles was simply the best. He created insult comedy &yet every 1 of his targets felt loved and honored. One of a kind. #RIPdonrickles."

Jimmy Kimmel on Twitter: "90 years with Don Rickles weren't enough. One of the sweetest and most lovely people I had the pleasure of knowing. We miss you already."

Billy Crystal on Twitter: Don Rickles has passed away. A giant loss."

Donald Jay Rickles was born May 8, 1926, in Queens. His dad sold insurance and it's from him that Rickles inherited his acerbic sense of humor. But it was his mom who encouraged him to stand up at family gatherings and poke fun at his uncles.

During World War II, Rickles served in the Navy and afterwards would study for two years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Among his classmates, Anne Bancroft, Grace Kelly and Jason Robards.

Rickles rose to fame in the 50s after tolling in obscurity as a regular comedian. According to Hollywood Reporter, "Rickles unwittingly discovered his biggest laughs came when he turned the table on his hecklers. His career then skyrocketed after he insulted the hot-tempered Sinatra, who normally did not take kindly to such treatment.

When the superstar singer and actor walked into a Hollywood club in 1957 where Rickles was performing, the comedian greeted the “Chairman of the Board” from the stage: “Make yourself at home Frank. Hit somebody.” Sinatra roared — with laughter."

Rickles had discovered comedy gold. He'd lay in to anyone and anything, often insulting the biggest stars of the day, as well as people who paid money to see his act. He always referred to people he viewed as stupid as "hockey pucks" and no one, not even the President of the United States, was immune from Rickle's ridicule.

In 1985, Sinatra was asked by then-President Ronald Reagan to perform at the White House for the second Inaugural Ball. Sinatra insisted Rickles accompany him for a comedy routine. Rickles pulled no punches, at one time asking the President, "Am I going to fast for you Ronnie?" Rickles said he always considered it a highlight of his career.

In addition to performing in Las Vegas for decades, Rickles was a fixture on Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts as well as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Rickles was one of Carson's most frequent guests. He was also a frequent guest on Late Show with David Letterman, where Letterman treated Rickles like royalty.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a character on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, viewed Rickles as a God.

In addition to his comedic work, he was also an accomplished actor. His first credits came in the 1950s in TV with parts in "Stage 7", "Cavalcade of America" and "Chevron Hall of Stars."

His first movie part came in 1958's "Run Silent Run Deep" where he played Quartermaster 1st Class Ruby. Clark Gable was that movie's star. Two years later he would have a part in "The Rat Race" with Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds.

More recently, he appeared in Kelly's Heroes in 1970, Martin Scorsese's Casion in 1995. He's perhaps best known to audiences in the last 20 years as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the "Toy Story" series from Pixar.

Rickles is survived by his wife Barbara Sklar, who he married in 1965. A private funeral is planned. According to Hollywood Reporter, donations in his memory can be made to the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.