cover image Rickles' Letters

Rickles' Letters

Don Rickles. Simon & Schuster, $25 (211pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-9663-9

Legendary comedian Rickles is at his funniest when he's insulting people in front of an audience, and-as illustrated by his memoir Rickles' Book-at his most sentimental when reminiscing over old friends. This volume has a little of both, but not enough of either; a collection of open letters to fellow celebrities and other notable figures, it only hints at Rickles' uproarious comedic gifts. Most missives are strictly one-note: a letter to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where Rickles once studied, requests a statue in his honor; Fidel Castro gets joshed about his retirement; Jesus gets congratulations for starting a new religion, but chastised for Easter. Those waiting for the gloves to come off will be disappointed in his gentle treatment of longtime friends like Bob Newhart, Steve and Eydie Gorme and Frank Sinatra. Perhaps most puzzling is his temerity with those who could use the full Rickles barrage, like Osama Bin Laden: ""You're becoming a real pain in my ass, way up there in the mountains. Just let me find you a nice condo in downtown Tel Aviv already."" Longtime fans and comedy completists will want this in their collection, but they'll find it doesn't live up to Rickles' considerable talents.