The passing of Don Rickles makes me sad on so many levels. One being he is one of the original comics who got popular during the comic explosion of the mid 50s- late 60s.
Stand up comedy isn't new, it's been around for a long long time, the problem being unless you were able to go to a night club or a similar venue you weren't able to see one. Then in the mid- late 50s (I believe, it could have been a little earlier) some genius got the idea to record comic acts and put them out on records. The thing exploded. It was a full on fad. People in Nowheresville, Middle America could listen to comedians. There were dinner parties, and cocktail parties where people would get the latest Bill Cosby record, or Lenny Bruce, and that would be the evening's entertainment. It was huge.
Among the comics to profit from this was Andy Griffith (he started out as a stand up) with his slow drawl talking about a bunch of fellers thowin' a punkin around (his telling of football), Bob Newhart (If you haven't heard his driver's ed instructor routine look it up, it's probably on YouTube, and it is hilarious. And of course Don Rickles. He started out as a straight stand up but wasn't getting very far. One night he was bombing and desperate and started picking on people in the audience, and they loved it. That was the beginning of his career. I am surprised how many people think he was being serious and was a jerk. He was actually a very kind sweet man, and it would kill him if he thought he actually hurt someone's feelings. He has been known to chase people down to apologize if they were offended.
We have lost a great man. and a great comedian.