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Don Rickles, beloved king of insult comedy, dies at 90

A fixture in nightclubs, casinos and late-night TV, dubbed 'Mr. Warmth'

April 06, 2017 - 3:01 pm

LOS ANGELES -- Comedian Don Rickles died Thursday morning as a result of kidney failure, his publicist confirmed to ABC News.

The rep added that the Emmy Award winner was at home in Los Angeles at the time of his death.

He would have turned 91 on May 8.

After serving two years in the Navy during World War II, Rickles set out to be an actor but transitioned to stand-up comedy. His put-downs of hecklers -- commonly calling them "hockey pucks" -- soon became his signature act, introducing the idea of what came to be known as the "insult comic."

Rickles burst onto the national stage after he began appearing on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1965. He was a frequent guest, and it was host Johnny Carson himself who dubbed Rickles "Mr. Warmth," a nickname that stuck with him for the entirety of his career.

Rickles also appeared in films and on TV, including starring as a Navy chief petty officer in his own 1970s sitcom, "C.P.O. Sharkey." His film roles included appearing opposite Clint Eastwood in the dark war comedy "Kelly's Heroes" and co-starring with Robert De Niro in director Martin Scorsese's 1995 drama "Casino."

A younger generation knows Rickles as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the hit animated "Toy Story" movie franchise.

Rickles published two best-selling memoirs in 2007 and 2008, and continued to perform stand-up until just before his passing. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000, and in 2008, he won an Emmy for the TV documentary "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project."

Rickles is survived by his wife of 52 years, Barbara, as well as their daughter, Mindy Mann, and two grandchildren. His funeral will be private, his publicist said, and requested donations in his memory to the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

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