David Letterman, 65, and Regis Philbin, 81, were “off their rockers” Thursday night when they placed a prank phone call to Don Rickles, 86.
Rickles was in rare form when Dave and Regis “surprised” the famed insult comic with the call on Letterman’s “Late Show.”
The word “surprised” is in quotes because we’re never sure if these bits are true surprises, with the subject — in this case, Rickles — having no idea such a call was forthcoming.
But it was hilarious anyway when Letterman blithely told guest Regis that he was dialing up Rickles in L.A. to wish him a happy new year. And Rickles — known famously as “The Merchant of Venom” (and other nicknames) — just let fly with insults and sarcastic remarks, as only he can.
We were struck by a few things when we saw this: No. 1, maybe it was because we watched a few episodes of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” earlier this week on NBC, but this Letterman bit reminded us of the pranks played by oldsters on the Betty White show.
And we loved the first thing Rickles said when he picked up the phone and Letterman asked if this was Don Rickles. Rickles’ reply really revealed his age. Said he, “Who is this, Lamont Cranston?” And Letterman really laughed at that because we’re sure Dave realized that few members of his audience would have any idea who Lamont Cranston was. He was a character from the golden age of radio — the true identity of the legendary character known as “The Shadow.” Only someone who’d been around as long as Rickles would mention him so casually. Watch the bit, above.