I was shocked to hear of George Carlin’s passing soon after I caught what proved to be his last show in Las Vegas. After this, I was a little afraid to go see Don Rickles last night, as my superstition almost got the best of me. Am I the Grim Reaper for aging comedians? I’m glad to report Rickles made it through his performance, despite my presence.
The elderly insult comic was as full of piss and vinegar as ever. The only problem was, it seemed like we were seeing a 1970s Rickles, minus a few extra wrinkles. His routine seemed dusted off from his days of touring with Frank Sinatra, back when his post-WWII references might have hit their target audience a little stronger. Despite his archaic jokes and stale routine, “Mr. Warmth” still packed a punch, most of it in shock value. It’s not often a celebrity can roll off words like Jap and spook without fear of reprimand. Michael Richards surely gone no immunity for his racial slurs. Perhaps Rickles was grandfathered in, maybe even great-grandfathered in, because he’s been using those words in his act for so long.
Adding to the old school vibe of the show was a lengthy opening act from Sinatra tribute singer Michael Martocci, performing with members of Sinatra’s own eighteen-piece orchestra. Martocci impressed the crowd with rich vocals on standards like “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Summer Wind.” His performance was entertaining but dragged on song after song despite shouts of “Don Rickles!” from the seemingly bored crowd.
After his initial standing O when he hobbled out on stage, Rickles clocked an astonishing three more throughout his performance. Despite his own advanced age, he still managed to poke fun at the elderly members of the audience. For one bit he called several men up onstage to join him. When choosing his victims, he said to one older man who thought he was chosen, “Not you, it would take you seven years to get up here.” Later he caught himself repeatedly referring to a grown man as “kid” to which one audience member quipped, “Everyone’s a kid to you!” Rickles took the jab in stride saying, “You got off a good one, now shut up!” At 83, he’s certainly gotten off a few good ones and no one’s been able to shut him up.