Comedian Don Rickles is a living, breathing example of pre-Civil Rights racism. His joke about President Obama during Shirley MacLaine’s AFI tribute was vintage Jim Crow.
The 86-year-old comic could have walked right out of the movie “The Help,” with the way he treated Obama as a non-person. Of course, back in the day, he didn’t have to worry about blacks in the audience.
The crowds were all-white. The only “blacks” in the room were waiting tables.
“I shouldn’t make fun of the blacks,” Rickles said. Then he proceeded to do just that, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“President Obama is a personal friend of mine. He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke.”
To be fair, he dissed McLaine, brother Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and other celebrities. But none of his other jokes were racially barbed and were tepid by comparison.
“Shirley,” Rickles said, “I never read your books, and I don’t plan to.”
“I know your brother very well,” he added, “and I never liked him.”
Although everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Jack Black was there, Rickles didn’t recognize anyone under 60. “If Sidney Poitier hadn’t shown up, they’d be nobody,” he said of the 85-year-old actor.
Rickles goes back with McLaine to the glory days of the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra,Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop— all dead.
“You have a charm and a warmth and class. I’ve known a lot of people in showbiz, but I’m so proud that you asked me to be here tonight,” he said in one of his few moments of candor.
Rickles is known as an insult comic so some sharp-edged humor was to be expected.
But someone needs to tell him it’s 2012. If he’s going to do these shticks, someone needs to tell him it’s not 1962. Update your material all ready.