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Obviously it is very hard to be a stand-up comic. It requires good
material, immense courage, and perfect timing. The ability to improvise
may be very important. John Landis says Don Rickles, who is now 81 but
still performing with amazing vigor, is not a comic but a performance
artist. In fact, he does not tell jokes. He also does not use prepared
material. He is a Jewish comic, though. He identifies himself as
Jewish. He uses his schtick--he insults people--and he works with what
comes up. National origin, weight, looks, a bad hairpiece, anything is
fair game. Why do people love it?
This is what veteran filmmaker ('Animal House', 'The Blues Brothers'; Michael Jackson's 'Thriller') John Landis aims to tell us.He isn't looking for flaws, secret sorrows, bad relationships. He has told the press Rickles hasn't any of those. Landis has been a friend and admirer of Rickles for decades; he was an eighteen-year-old gofer on the set of 'Kelly's Heroes' in the Seventies when he first met the man. (Rickles has been in a lot of movies and TV shows and the film documents that.) This is an affectionate portrait. And it works. It's impossible to walk away from it without liking Rickles and wearing a smile.
Some of the speakers: Debbie Reynolds, Chris Rock, Martin Scosese, Joan Rivers, Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Sidney Poitier, Ernest Borgnine (he and Rickles played 'The Odd Couple' on Broadway), Roseanne, Bob Newhart, Carl Reiner, and many others--all admirers.
There are segments of a 2006 Las Vegas performance, and it is this, of course, that best shows what Rickles does and how good he is at it, but this is not a concert film. It's the story of the working life and an affectionate portrait of a man who, it seems, has practiced his trade of being "the king of insults" for 48 years and yet made no enemies?
How has he done that? The simplest answer is, Because he's good. He pulls out the worst clichés: a man says he's German and he goose-steps on stage. He makes you laugh in spite of yourself. In the end you may realize it's really good-natured stuff. It clears the air. Joan Rivers, Landis has said (Aaron Hills retells the story in the Village Voice) once recounted how a Florida judge came backstage where they were both performing and invited Rickles to play golf with him and Rickles replied, "Listen: One, I'm leaving town. Two, you're a putz. You're loud, obnoxious, incredibly boring, and I wouldn't play golf with you because I don't live here and you couldn't fix a ticket. No." But, Landis says, Hills left out the most important part: the judge loved it. He laughed uproariously.
Such an exchange makes one--it made the judge--into a figment of the imagination, the wild imagination--of a very funny man. It is an honor to be insulted by such a comic genius. Rickles has the good material, the immense courage, and the perfect timing. And they have never left him.
He also has been married for thirty years, has two sons, and is loved. He is, Landis said, in a long monologue at the NYFF press Q&A, a great "schmearer" (Yiddish term for tipping): everywhere he goes he passes out bills so when he comes back, he's more than welcome. But this isn't a payoff; it's niceness.
The film also shows some clips of Dean Martin roasts. Rickles obviously is the king of the roast--a gathering, among friends, where someone is honored by being affectionately insulted by everyone. The insults show they're friends. In a sense, by insulting his audiences at shows in big rooms at Vegas or Miami or Indian casinos, he's showing them they're friends; he's establishing trust. Otherwise, obviously, it would just be ugly.
One of the side benefits of the film is its portrait of Las Vegas. Extraordinarly, all the entertainers who performed when the town was run by the mafia are nostalgic for those days--when, they say, everyone was treated very well.
Again, the NYFF is not a venue for great documentaries. This is a very good-looking, neatly edited film. It will be shown on HBO. It is not a milestone in the art of documentary. John Landis was very entertaining at the press Q&A. He loves this subject.
A New York Film Festival 2007 official selection.
John Landis's new documentary on Don Rickles, Mr. Warmth: The Don
Rickles Project, works best when focused squarely on its star
attraction. Every so often Landis gets distracted in telling (or rather
showing other people like Bob Newhart) go on about the glory days of a
mob-run Las Vegas, and it starts to loose a little of its focus. And
every so often he takes a misstep with the editing. But since comedy is
Landis's strong-suit as a director, anyway, it's fitting that his film
works best when his subject is given the full-treatment, either in
clips of his performances, his old Johnny Carson appearances, or with
some of his adulators telling it like it is: he's one of the funniest
stand-up comics of his time. And still today he kiss: watching him
completely skewer every single race and both sexes in a Vegas audience
is dynamite (sometimes you just wait for him to drop his microphone in
Just hearing the man tell stories, or talk about his wonderful (and wonderfully Jewish) mother, or doing lovingly stupid imitations of his wife (the tongue is what clicks it), is entertaining. He's a man who takes his fame completely in stride, but not for granted. He tells of a cruel prank done on the set of Run Silent Run Deep involving him and Clark Gable; he goes overboard as host of the Tonight Show by breaking Carson's box or whatever, and Carson goes right next-door to the set of Rickles's show, where after he apologizes he says "ladies and gentlemen, Johnny Carson!" And then the testimonies themselves bring up laughs (Sarah Silverman comments how Rickles taught her what black people were like living secluded in New Hampshire), even if it's just repeating old Rickles lines. His is a very precise shtick where finding the line and only going across it so much is like an art- you don't want to make it into a totally sensationalist exercise, but the audience still has to have a good time at not only others' expenses, but their own. It's a kind of all-inclusive comedy, be it the schmuck who's 300 pounds and with a dopey wife, or the president, or, of course most brilliantly, Dean Martin.
It's not exactly a great documentary, but it's a fine showcase, and the kind of remembrance for one of those old kings of comedy that haven't yet kicked the bucket, like (unfortunately) so many in show-biz have in recent years. 7.5/10
More of a tribute to a comedic legend than a true documentary, this
John Landis directed love letter to the great Mr. Rickles is pretty
good none the less. Consisting of various actors and directors of note
giving their (naturally) praise for the beloved comedian, interspersed
with clips from his Vegas shows, late show appearances, old films,
Friars' Roasts, and home movies with longtime friend, Bob Newhart.
While the film does have a very small amount of missteps editing and a few instances where it veers off-topic to ill effect, for the most part it's quite highly enjoyable and hilarious to boot. Any true fan (myself included)of Don will no doubt treasure it and watch it multiple times.
So what ya waiting' for? Go check it out on HBO while it's still on, Hockey Puck.
If you love the humor of Don Rickles, then this film is for you! It consists of lots of clips from candid interviews with the man, his friends, Hollywood folks who love him as well as clips from his stand- up routine and TV/movie appearances. It's everything Rickles you'd ever want to see or know. You learn about his wife, his mother, his old beloved agent, his friend Harry, his buddy Bob Newhart, Johnny Carson and much much. Throughout, Rickles is naturally very abrasive and silly and you get a bit of a feel as to what it was like in the days of old Vegas. It's all very well assembled and the people making the film obviously had great respect and love for the guy. And, amazingly, years after this was made, Rickles is STILL on the road entertaining folks! Well worth seeing.
Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (2007)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Extremely entertaining documentary from director John Landis opens up with him talking about the first time he met Don Rickles and then we get to see the man himself from a Las Vegas show in 2006 where it's obvious that he hasn't lost a step over the decades. We then countless footage of Rickles from his movies, TV shows, appearances on Johnny Carson and other shows and just about every other form of media out there. You know you're popular when a documentary on you can bring in the number of famous faces that we see here talking about Rickles. Just a few of them include DeNiro, Eastwood, Scorsese, Rock, Borgnine, Crystal, Williams, Corman, Goldberg, Larry King, Leno, Caan, Richard Lewis, Newhart, Philbin, Carl Reiner, Poitier, Sarah Silverman, McMahon, Harry Dean Stanton, Debbie Reynolds and many, many more. If you're a fan of Rickles or if you're someone who has never heard of him, this documentary is going to appeal to both sides because Landis really does do a great job at not only telling you the life story of the man but we get so many great stories that you can't help but walk away from this feeling as if you know him. The film does a very good job at mixing all of the interview segments in with the archival footage and then we get the added bonus of Rickles himself talking about various stages in his career. This includes how he was discovered, working Las Vegas and various other personal things like his marriage, which has lasted over forty years. I think the best thing the film has going for it are the various clips that really make you realize what a talent Rickles was and you realize that he really wasn't afraid to go after anyone. We get some terrific clips from The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast and various other specials that the comedian did. Plus there's a terrific bit from a 2006 concert where Rickles is just on a full attack against everyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
FOR A GREAT MANY years, from the 1930's thru the 1970's, it was
considered to be a great honor to be insulted by Groucho Marx. At
personal appearances, while visiting the NY Stock Exchange, dining at
some big-time restaurant or just plain everyday living, the ritual of
having quick and clever put-downs and humorously tailored barbs hurled
at just about everyone became an expected part of life.
IT WAS IN the late 1940's that this apparently compulsive behaviour was channeled into a showbiz bonanza. What with the Marx Brothers' run in pictures as a comedy team having ground to a halt in the Post World War II period,with titles such as A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA (United Artists/, 1946) and LOVE HAPPY (United Artists, 1949) there was still a lot of Marxian talent and energy left. Hence, Chico toured with his Big Band, Harpo did the Nightclubs Circuit and Groucho???
SOMEONE CAME UP the brainstorm to harness the insults into a big time broadcasting bonanza. Hence, we had the creation of YOU BET YOUR LIFE; which at one point was simulcast on both NBC Radio and on NBC TV Network. A non-spectacular quiz format was concocted with some rather low budget cash prizes. It was all secondary to just having Groucho's presence good natured giving the business to pairs of contestants.
BOTH FATHER TIME and Mother Nature have conspired to take Groucho away from us; but, it was not a passing which was totally without both a legacy and a successor for the masses. A former actor and now outstanding stand-up comic, one Donald Rickles, was there to accept the mantle and carry on.
THE ACT THAT has been so successful for "Mr. Warmth" consists of his being rude, obnoxious and insulting to his fans. The key to his successful manipulation of this seemingly repulsive format would appear to have its roots in his nondiscriminatory application to his "victims". In short, he treats (or mistreats) everybody in equally shabby a manner.
THE FILM TAKES a careful and complex look at fellow performers, fans and friends; who offer many a different, yet similar a point of view of the master of the insult. Personal anecdotes are related from such a large roster of what could only be described as a Who's Who of Show Business. Each story, which although they are disparate in origin, relates with obviously great authenticity, that the real Mr. Don Rickles is, at heart, a truly sweet guy and a fine individual. He is really nothing like the insult machine that we see on stage.
WE HAD THE pleasure of seeing the Rickles Act this past September. It was at the old, but restored Arcada Theatre; which is located here, in Saint Charles, Illinois (Suburban Chicagoland). Following a close to 2 hour presentation on the stage, we found him to be a guy who truly enjoyed his performing for the public. It was our impression that Don would do his show for gratis, he so enjoyed it.
IN THE COURSE of viewing MR. WARMTH: THE DON RICKLES PROJECT, we came to the conclusion that this is a very energetic octogenarian; who will never actually retire from the work that he so loves.
IF YOU HAVEN'T seen MR. WARMTH, whether or not you are a fan, see it. It will be a great experience and following its ninety or so minutes, you will know the man, as well as the comedian.
Don Rickles, for 55 years, has found ways to turn even the most awful
and bigoted subject into hilarity. Revered by comics of the younger
generation, Rickles has managed to somehow stay the biggest secret in
the comic business (at least for those of us under the age of 40!).
There are comics by the dozens who imitate Rickles' style, from the
yelling and personal attacks to his "disdain for sensitivity." He will
make fun of your ethnicity, your weight, your hair, your clothes, your
money, your wife...it will be incredibly offensive, and it will be
hilarious. To say I was thrilled to discover that Mr. Warmth was being
made is an enormous understatement.
Mr. Warmth: the Don Rickles Project, is a story about a man who has become famous by insulting those around him, which, as comedian after comedian mentions in the film, is perhaps the hardest thing to do. His genius lies in the availability of material; every night, his audience changes, and so every night, so does the act. Don Rickles is an insult-improv- comedian. It is simply marvelous to watch.
John Landis does not attempt to stuff Rickles' humor down our throats. It is bad enough that I spent the last two paragraphs telling you how funny this man is; the film would be pointless without some tape to augment the tale. From a Las Vegas appearance in 2006 (at the age of 80) Rickles begins his show by going out into the audience and picking out some favorites.
"Christ look at the front row, I'm working a state home for Christ-sake! Go home and die!" "Who let the Chinaman in here? 40 million Jews, I got a chink sitting in the goddamn front!" "Are you a queer?" "Chinese? Philippino? Japanese! 3 years in the jungle looking for your father!"
Out of context, the man sounds like a bigoted ass. Yet people laugh. Why? Why do they laugh? Why has this man been so successful for so long? This question, more than anything else, seems to be the point of Mr. Warmth.
While it seems improper for me to answer this myself (the documentary does such a superb job of it), I did find several flaws in its creation. Mr. Warmth, for all of the sparkle of its main character, got far too sidetracked in certain spots, and relied far too heavily on the interviews of other comedians. 5-6 minutes without Don threw me off track, and while the information was interesting, it was not quite relevant. Furthermore, I honestly wished John Landis could've found someone, a celebrity, who found Rickles' humor to be insulting and racist (Pat Boone, if he were still alive). It would've provided some much needed contrast to a documentary that comes off as one sided. These are the only flaws preventing me from giving this film a 10.
I would highly recommend Mr. Warmth, whether or not you are already a fan of Don Rickles. In a world full of PC comics whose idea of being "racy" is to use the f-word, Rickles is the only man carrying on the legacy of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Redd Foxx. He knows know boundaries, and his lack of respect for our stuck-up attitudes makes us laugh every time. May you live forever Don, because there will be no one like you again.
Mr. Warmth (Don Rickles) is in this world, but not of this world. His
mind simply doesn't seem to comprehend things the way an average person
would and his life is one long disaster because of this, getting
himself into constant mishaps and far out, zany situations, which he is
left to sort out on his own as he doesn't seem to mix with anyone and
he insults his benefactors. But he never gives up and, despite the
simplest of tasks being a constant struggle for him, applying his own
zany methods of solving the problem always pays off for him in the end.
To look at the sorry state of modern humour, with all it's focus of farting and general vulgarity, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that a show like Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project was made at one time. There's nothing unsuitable going on here, just good, clean U rated humour of the type Jacky Mason and the like made in the 50s. And I find it just as laugh out loud funny now in my early 20s as I did when I was a young boy in the early 90s.
Although I can look at it a little deeper now and see there must be more to this character than than meets the eye. There must be a reason why he does things the way he does and things seem to keep going wrong for him. As others have noted, it looks like he may have a type of autism. In fact I'm so convinced about it that I really think were a professional psychologist to analyse him, I think Mr. Warmth could be the first famous, fictional character to be diagnosed with something like Asperger's Syndrome.
If you'd like to see some truly hilarious humour at it's very best before it all became obsessed with farting and vulgarity, then this would come highly recommended. Shows like Finding Nemo do work because it's well realised but it's really just as vulgar as the rest. Shows like this show were more restrained and civilised once, and hopefully we might start putting out this type of humour more again anytime soon.
Don Rickles is the first thought that will emerge when you think of comedy in Bollywood. Comedy has been a vital part of any movie and a lot of movies have been made only on comedy. Stars like Ashok Kumar was a natural comedian. In the past the entire movie would be a comedy and there were directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee who were specialists in these kinds of movies. Then slowly comedy began taking a back seat and today comedy is only a part of the movie. At this time comedians like Josh Brolin, Asrani and Kadar Khan have made a mark for themselves.
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