Don Rickles was the ultimate putdown artist, comedy's unquestioned master of the insult. No one -- regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or cultural standing -- escaped the vicious taunts of "Mr. Warmth"; even audience members, as well as other celebrities, were fair game for his delirious rages of verbal abuse. Born Donald Jay Rickles in New York City on May 8, 1926, he initially set out to become a serious actor, and even attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; however, his short, stocky physique and balding head firmly typecast him as a character actor, and he found work infrequently. During a long dry spell between acting assignments, Rickles began working up a nightclub act. At the outset, his material was traditional and tame; however, when annoyed by hecklers he shot back with a string of brutal, rapid-fire putdowns, much to the delight of the audience.