Don Rickles: Merchant of Venom

Citadel. Oct. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780806541723. $27. BIOG
Don Rickles (1926–2017) is remembered as a comedy legend and the master of “insult comedy.” Starr’s (Shatner) insightful and funny biography explains that Rickles really wanted to be an actor. But his natural aptitude for comedy and improvisation led him to perform comedy routines in clubs, primarily along the East Coast. After a change in management, Rickles had successful stints in Brooklyn and clubs in Miami. This led him to move to California, where he worked in Los Angeles comedy clubs and branched out into TV and films. After two decades of TV work, he finally got his own sitcom, C.P.O. Sharkey (1976–78). In 1995, Martin Scorsese hired him for a dramatic role in Casino that earned him praise. The same year he voiced Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story, and subsequently in three Toy Story sequels, which introduced him to a new generation of fans. Starr covers all aspects of Rickles’s life: his 56-year marriage that produced two children, his relationship with his indomitable mother Etta, and his strong friendships with Johnny Carson and Frank Sinatra.
VERDICT A fun biography that should appeal to Don Rickles fans and those interested in the history of stand-up comedy.
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