Comedy

Stand-up icon Don Rickles looks back on his years onstage and in Vegas

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Don Rickles.
Coast Casinos
Julie Seabaugh

In May everyone from Bill Cosby and David Letterman to Tina Fey and Jon Stewart honored you with Spike TV’s All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles. I was very, very surprised that it turned out to be so nice. It’s nice to know that people still think of me and show up to see me. That’s nice to hear after all these years in this business. At my age, to still have them show up—and young, too—makes me feel very proud.

The topic of Jim Norton’s keynote address at the Just for Laughs festival was the modern-day environment of outrage, regarding how people respond to something a comedian might say onstage or even on social media. Well, you know, with 60 years of doing this, that’s long-gone for me. Everybody who comes to see me knows what Don does. When I first started out, I had a lot of rejection, like everybody does. I was doing something different, but I’m very proud of what I do, because it’s never mean-spirited, it’s never dirty and the majority of people are in my corner.

You still perform all over the world, but I imagine Vegas holds a special place in your heart. Oh, sure! I started at the Sahara in the ’50s, and it’s always been a place I love. I feel I’m part of Vegas—I know I am—and it’s a nice feeling.

How have you seen the city evolve over the years? In my thinking, when Howard Hughes took over, it became more of a corporate place. When I started, it was run by guys from a different world, and it was very exciting. It still is, but it’s kind of different now.

How did appearing in 1995 film Casino compare to the real Vegas you’ve experienced? Oh, it was very close! Nicholas Pileggi, the guy who wrote it, based it on a true story. There were certain things they left out, but it was pretty much like that, like a casino was run. So it was great to be in that; I thought it was put together pretty good.

You’ve said before that you’ll never retire. Is that still true? Well … someday I’ll retire. God forbid my health goes, or my sense of humor, which I never think will. But there will come a time when I’ll know it’s over and retreat into the bushes. But right now I don’t see that on the horizon for me.

Don Rickles August 16-17, 8 p.m., $88-$110. Orleans, 702-284-7777.

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