Zach Galifianakis Loved to Be Ridiculed by Don Rickles, ‘The Guy Who Invented It’

‘You got off a good one,’ Rickles admitted to Galifianakis. ‘And it’s pissing me off’
Zach Galifianakis Loved to Be Ridiculed by Don Rickles, ‘The Guy Who Invented It’

Want an example of how to set a tone for an interview? Take a page from the Don Rickles playbook. When he sat down with Zach Galifianakis a few years back for his “Dinner With Don” series of conversations for AARP, Galifianakis got things started with, “What would you like me to call you, Mr. Rickles?”

Without missing a beat, Rickles shot back a reply:


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It’s strange to see Galifianakis, resident a-hole of Between Two Ferns, take a deferential role in a conversation. But the comic clearly worships Rickles (“If you're a comedian and you don't appreciate Don Rickles,” he says, “then you're probably not a comedian.”) and happily relinquishes the bully club to the elder statesman. 

“I have a curiosity about how you got started,” Galifianakis begins. “Do you mind if I ask you about that?”

“No, I don't mind anything as long as I don't get the check,” cracks Rickles before telling the story of his relatively late-blooming career. “I must have been about in my late 20s. My mother, she pushed me to get up and kid around. Then all of a sudden they were laughing, so I kept doing it.”

Rickles admits that being an insult comic wasn’t always easy, especially before he was well known. “It was a big struggle when I first started,” he confesses. “Guy said, ‘Hey, I came in to see this guy and he called my wife a moose. I don't need that, you know.’” 

The art of insult comedy? “There's a way of saying things to different people,” says Rickles. Galifianakis agreed although he noted that a lot of comics these days don't understand how that works. “Yeah, well, I know how far to go and when to pull back,” Rickles explains. “It's a matter of judgment. Every time I perform I always try to make it like conversation, like we're talking now, with some humor in there, you know. I leave it up to the audience and I'm kind of proud of that.”

Despite his best efforts to be polite, a little bit of the Between Two Ferns Zach peeks out from time to time. “Back in those days,” he asks, “how did you magnify your voice, you know, before electricity?”

A hint of a smile passes over Rickles. “You got off a good one,” he admits. “And it's pissing me off.”

So what does a pissed-off Rickles do? Fire back. When asked what he thinks of Galifianakis’s work, Rickles deadpans: “Every night I go to bed and I think of your work.” When asked for an opinion on Corky Romano, in which Galifianakis has a small part, Rickles spat, “Go to the psychiatrist. You got some problems.”

Of course, the more Rickles laid into the younger comic, the more Galifianakis ate it up. “This is a really amazing experience,” he says over the end credits, “to be ridiculed by the guy that invented it.”

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