Jimmy Kimmel didn’t play it for laughs when he delivered a heartfelt tribute to his dear friend Don Rickles, who died Thursday at age 90. Rickles, the original insult comic, had appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” 18 times over the years. The host fondly recalled those appearances in which he was often the target of Rickles’ riffs and zingers.
Rather than a monologue, Kimmel opened his late-night talker by noting, “This is not going to be our usual show tonight, and I’m going to tell you right up front: I’m going to cry, which is kind of embarrassing but, well, I’m not good with this sort of thing.” As he explained, “I was fortunate enough not only to have Don on this show as my guest, but also to become close to him and his wife Barbara.”
Kimmel then reminisced eloquently. “I grew up in Las Vegas, so even when I was a kid, Don Rickles was a big deal. You’d see his name on the marquee at the Sahara hotel. And then you’d see him on TV making fun of Johnny Carson, making fun of Frank Sinatra.”
He then recalled turning to Rickles at one of the low points in his life. “When my Uncle Frank passed away, I called him and asked him to be the guest on that show, which was a tough show, and he helped all of us through it.” And he choked up as he admitted, “He gave me advice, good advice, not the advice people give you just to hear themselves giving you advice.”
Kimmel then read from the 27 letters and cards that Rickles had written him, with the most recent being the one he got after hosting this year’s edition of the Oscars that made history with that mix-up over the Best Picture winner. In closing, Kimmel played a montage of Rickles ripping him apart all in fun over the years set to Sinatra crooning “I Get A Kick Out of You.”