Another legendary entertainer gone... Don Rickles passed away at the age of 90. I first became aware of Don's schtick after his heyday, when he starred as an abrasive Chief Petty Officer in the sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey. For a guy who made a living by playing a mean S.O.B., the guy seemed to be genuinely nice when he wasn't in character:
By today's standards, Don Rickles' schtick would be considered non 'politically correct', but the people who tend to attack political correctness want to engage in attacks on people with no power without receiving censure- they want to engage in 'kiss up, punch down' behavior targeting people who can't fight back. Don Rickles was an equal opportunity jerkass- he made fun of people with more fame and money, and he made fun of people of all races, creeds, and cultures... and he did it to their faces, actually putting his own nose on the line. The fact that he never ended up in traction is a testimony to his ability to act mean without being mean- the decent human being was evident behind the abrasive, borderline abusive façade.
In some ways, Don Rickles opened the floodgates for lesser, meaner 'comedians', but I think his only competition in the funny/mean cohort was Joan Rivers. Personally, I tend to prefer surreal comedy to the broad insult comedy, but I do recognize that Don Rickles was a master of form, and that, behind the causticity, there was genuine affection:
I know Don is roasting now, but it sure isn't in Hell.