A racially charged Don Rickles joke will be cut from TV Land’s American Film Institute tribute to Shirley MacLaine when the program airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on June 24.
Rickles caused a stir last Thursday night when he cracked a joke comparing Obama to a janitor at the Shirley MacLaine tribute show. “President Obama is a personal friend of mine,” said Rickles at the event. “He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke.”
A TV Land spokesperson gave a cautious statement to The Hollywood Reporter when asked about the off-color joke, simply saying, “It’s not going to make it on the air — that’s all I’ll say about it.”
Rickles, who is famous for being (a) an insults comic and (b) about 900 years old (he seems to be more easily forgiven for this kind of thing, coming as he does from “another generation”), is well-known for close-to-the-knuckle jokes. Yet the comedian is not being censored, according to his representative:
“He is not being censored. Before all of this started, we knew Don’s spot would be cut a bit for time, as would others, including possibly Shirley herself since the show ran over and we knew it was likely that might be edited. This is a non-story and requires no further comment.”
This is not implausible, either. The black-tie evening at which Rickles cracked his slightly odious joke lasted four hours. The network’s telecast will run just 90 minutes.
Rickles’ other material at the event took pot shots at celebs such as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and MacLaine herself.