Jimmy Kimmel choked up while paying tribute to the late comedy legend Don Rickles on Thursday, April 6.
Hours earlier, Rickles passed away at his L.A. home after suffering from kidney failure at age 90. The late-night-TV host, 49, got emotional and teared up while remembering his friend during his opening monologue.
“This is not going to be our usual show tonight,” Kimmel said. “We lost someone that we and I love very much today, and I’m sorry if you’re hearing this right now for the first time, but Don Rickles passed away this morning. He was 90 years old. I know it sounds crazy to say he was too young, but he was, because he was youthful and funny and sharp and generous.”
Kimmel reminisced about his friendship with Rickles and his wife, Barbara, and how he pestered the Casino star for years until he agreed to appear on the show. “We bothered him like 20 times. He gave up and he did the show for my birthday in 2006,” Kimmel continued. “It was exciting. It was like I was in some talk-show-host fantasy camp, sitting behind a desk while Don Rickles made fun of me. It was like being a real talk-show host for a minute.”
He went on to read some of the hilarious notes that Rickles had sent him over the years. “Thank you so much for inviting me to your home for dinner, but to be honest, we would have preferred a three-month trip to Venice, Italy. Love, Don,” Kimmel read. Another card said, “Dear Jimmy, we watched your Academy Award show. Barbara loved every bit of it, but here’s what I thought: You were on camera too much. All in all, it was OK. We love you, so don’t worry.”
He also played a montage of Rickles’ 17 appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! throughout the years. “There’ll never be another Don Rickles,” Kimmel declared. “He’s probably the greatest talk show guest of all time.”