Robert De Niro, who appeared with Rickles in the 1995 movie "Casino," joked that he was sure the 87-year-old comedian had died and Monday's gathering at the Waldorf Astoria was actually a memorial. "Don would have been so proud," De Niro said as Rickles laughed along.
In fact, it was a tribute to the man known as "Mr. Warmth," who received a lifetime achievement award from the Friars, with guests attending the black-tie dinner finding bottles of Jack Daniels - a favorite beverage of Rickles' old friend, Frank Sinatra - at their tables and boxes of Godiva chocolate.
Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers and Louis CK were among the comics praising the master roaster, while taped greetings came from Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld among others. Natalie Cole, John Mayer and Diana Krall sang for him, and just about everyone sweared, from Bob Costas to Bob Saget.
Lewis Black said that "Rickles" should be a verb, meaning to ridicule "exquisitely." Kathy Griffin recalled attending a Rickles show in the 1990s with Andre Agassi, the rare celebrity unamused by Rickles' patented ribbing. It turns out Agassi had a good reason to miss out on the jokes: The tennis star later admitted he was hooked on crystal methamphetamine at the time.
Rickles, of course, had insults prepared. "So many stars here, nobody big," he said. He told Krall that her husband, Elvis Costello, was the "real star" of the couple. Black was "full of anger and hate" and likely "to die young." As for Rickles himself: "I'm standing here, barely."