The night was not exactly like the baudy The Aristocrats, a film featuring comedians telling roughly the same story, each one raunchier than the one before. At the Waldorf Astoria on Monday night, a Who's Who of comedy, a lineup that included John Stamos, Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, Tony Danza, Kathy Griffin, Lewis Black ("Rickles rickles you exquisitely"), Louis CK ("Rickles meets the missile before it hits"), Regis Philbin, Bob Costas, and Robert DeNiro, "the serious actor," got up to insult the master of insult comedy, Mr. Don Rickles in awarding him for The Friars Lifetime Achievement in Comedy. Clips from others: David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern, Jon Stewart, all had the same conceit: pretending they wished to be there (NOT)! Perhaps Rickles wanted to prove a point, but especially Bob Saget, the dirtiest of the dirty Aristocrat storytellers was asked to keep it clean. Without the four-letter words, the cussing, it's amazing how funny he can be, quipping, "I'm Jewish, circumsized 9 times. Enjoy the calamari."
Borscht belt veteran Freddie Roman kept the proceedings moving along. An auction had Louis CK and John Mayer vying for the same old piano Frank Sinatra and Steve Lawrence played back in the day, until Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band snagged it for $70,000. Arturo Sandoval, Diana Krall performed, John Mayer sang the saloon classic, "One for my Baby and One More for the Road," and Natalie Cole did her dad's "Unforgettable."
When he got up to the podium, the master at 87 still had "IT." On Diana Krall, Don Rickles insisted he wanted Elvis, "Her husband's the real star. He couldn't make it because he wanted real money." Churlish to the core, Rickles chided Louis CK--he won 5 Emmies, what does he do? "I laughed because you laughed." Imitating Tony Bennett crooning, he japed, "Of course he had to leave. This was too exciting for him." Don Rickles blew them all away.
For a finale, they all crowded the stage with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler joining in. And Diana Krall sang, "The Best is Yet to Come," with everyone joining in.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.