Don Rickles and the gasp of political correctness

By JOE GANDELMAN

The instinct to be politically correct was on display again. This time a comedian’s insulting joke led to audible gasps in a Hollywood elite audience and then, finally, to laughs.

What was this shocking incident about? It was – if you have a pacemaker make sure this won’t short circuit it – about Don Rickles making an insult joke about President Barack Obama that wasn’t PC.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the black-tie elite at the American Film Institute’s tribute to Shirley MacLaine audibly gasped when Rickles delivered this line: "I shouldn’t make fun of the blacks … President Obama is a personal friend of mine. He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke."

Yes, some of the show biz elite actually seemed momentarily shocked by that line delivered by Rickles, the comedian famous for lines such as: "Who picks your clothes – Stevie Wonder?" The same Rickles who Frank Sinatra helped into the big-time after Rickles shouted out to him while doing a club gig: "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!"

The same comedian who has worked steadily for more than 60 years – long admired by top comics and top entertainers of several generations. The same Rickles who has been a comedy headliner, richly rewarded by Vegas and other famous venues for many years.

The same Rickles who when interviewed by then-Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz in 2007 said this to Kurtz after the reporter told the comedian about his Mexican fianc

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