TV Land to Cut Don Rickles' Obama Joke From Shirley MacLaine AFI Tribute (Exclusive)
A version of this story originally appeared in the Rambling Reporter column of the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
Viewers of TV Land will not be able to watch insult comic Don Rickles compare President Barack Obama to a janitor at the recent American Film Institute tribute to Shirley MacLaine when the network broadcasts its shortened version of the evening’s festivities at 9 p.m. ET/PT on June 24. “It’s not going to make it on the air -- that’s all I’ll say about it,” says a spokesperson for the cable channel, which presented Rickles with its Legend Award in 2009.
TV Land’s edited AFI program will run 90 minutes. The black-tie evening, which lasted four hours, took place June 7 at Sony Pictures Studios. Rickles’ material also included jabs at Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and MacLaine, though none went viral like the 86-year-old’s comment about the current commander-in-chief. “President Obama is a personal friend of mine,” said Rickles. “He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke.”
Was it racist … or just Rickles? Dennis Haysbert, himself skewered by the comic for appearing in Allstate Insurance ads, carefully tells THR, “I thought what Don said about me was very funny.” (Rickles has appeared with him on The Unit.)
But, observes Tamara Rawitt, who attended the AFI event and co-created and produced In Living Color, of the POTUS slam: “What was kind of magical was watching a room of deeply discreet A-listers secretly get off on watching someone getting a day pass to rant and rave. You need two AARP cards to get away with stuff like that.”
The heavyweight audience included Warner Bros. head Jeff Robinov and Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal, as well as film legends including Sidney Poitier and Peter Fonda.
UPDATED AT 10 p.m. PT: "He is not being censored," Rickles' rep tells THR. "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 nonstory and requires no further comment."