What few people know about Don Rickles’ nightclub/casino act is how down to the second everything is planned. As with so much consummate Vegas comedy, it couldn’t possibly look more improvisational and yet, in the lighting booth, there is a cue book telling the lighting guy what to do almost second-by-second in response to what Rickles does.
But then consider this: The great bulldog-faced comic – “Mr. Warmth” as Johnny Carson lovingly used to call him – is about to hit the age of 87 next Wednesday, an utterly astonishing age to be lighting his blowtorch in public on a regular basis. Unlike, say, George Burns, who could hit 100 sedately delivering lines and timing them by playing with his cigar holder, Rickles’ act depends, to some extent, on kinetics and acting out. (He’s a trained actor.)
When you see him now, you’re not only seeing a comic who is one of the most revered alive among members of his own tribe, but a man at an age where one never completely knows what senior moment or wild improvised celebration will overtake him. He might sometimes be as unpredictable as when he first started out.
He’s at the Fallsview Casino for a two-night stand tonight and Friday. – Jeff Simon