Don Rickles told a racial joke where he compared President Obama to a janitor Thursday night, in a racially charged bit of humor that may have pushed the envelope a bit too far. Rickles told the joke at the American Film Institute’s tribute to Shirley MacLaine this past Thursday night. Critics say that type of humor may have had a place in the past but in today’s world that type of racist humor should be left out.
Rickles told the crowd, according to The Hollywood Reporter,
“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.”
Rickles has long been known to include that type of racial humor in his act and there was a time and place where it may have been considered acceptable, but as the relationships between African-Americans and whites becomes less confrontational it is becoming a lot more rare to hear jokes like Rickles in a public forum.
Rickles is not new to the race game nor even to using racial jokes about President Obama. When Obama was elected in 2008, Rickles went on the “Late Show With David Letterman” and let loose some humor about Obama playing basketball in the White House during a national emergency. The audience was audibly squeamish, just as the audience at the AFI event was.
Rickles, due to his age and the era he represents is not likely to bring about the backlash that other comedians get when they insult the President, there is a good chance that in a backroom somewhere, someone is telling Rickles to cool it next time out.