Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hey Dummie: The Feast of Saint Rickles

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Hockeypucks Everywhere,

Just to show the power of the Cosmic Comic, no sooner had I suggested Don Rickles' birthday as a holiday last week, did I realize that it was, in fact, Don Rickles' birthday. Timing is everything.

Rickles, the merchant of venom, is one of the gret insult comics. He started with a standard routine, working like so many others, strip clubs between regular gigs. Being a short Jewish guy with his clothes on, he would get heckled mercillously by the patrons who come to see something wholly other, and Don gave it right back. When the barbs were getting bigger laughs than the jokes, the path was obvious. His big break came when Sinatra saw his act. Spotting him in the audience, Rickles greeted him from the stage saying, "Make yourself at home Frank, hit someone." Sinatra loved it and the rest was history. Rickles always adored Sinatra and once said of him,

"When you enter a room, you have to kiss his ring. I wouldn't mind so much, but he keeps it in his back pocket."
Much of Rickles stuff could be seen as racist, playing on negative stereotypes. But, in a sense, Rickles was extendeing Jewish humor. Traditional eastern European Jewish humor plays on the notion of archetypes. Instead of having a unitary view of human nature, there is held to be a number of well-defined human natures, each with well-known sets of properties. Jokes then feature these archetypes. Businessmen are coniving, clever theives or gonifs, butchers are strong, but not smart, housewives are gossipping yentas, scholars are smart, but lacking common-sense twist simple things into logical pretzels, mothers-in-law, well, they were mothers-in-law... No matter who you are, you end up on the back end of a joke. Rickles did with racial stereotypes, what Eastern European Jews did with archetypes. Everyone gets it.

So great is Rickles that this is what Triumph the Comic Wonder Dog had to say in that holy on-line publication Shecky!
"Rickles is the king. I worship the ground Rickles poops on."

So, free shots today. What are your favorite put downs. If there's anyone you want to insult, let it fly. Happy birthaday Don Rickles.