Rickles-Newhart reunion brightens fest

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ASPEN, Colo. - The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival celebrated comedy legend Don Rickles in more ways than one Thursday, including a surprise reunion of Rickles and Bob Newhart.

Rickles received the festival's first-ever Pinnacle Award at the Wheeler Opera House here in front of a large audience that also came out to take a first look at John Landis' work-in-progress documentary about the comedian, "The Rickles Project."

The director and comedian also entertained the crowd in a Q&A session, with Rickles' appearance on stage earning him a standing ovation.

One of the night's most emotional moments came when Landis brought out Newhart as a surprise guest, and the two comedy legends embraced while the crowd roared with applause.

"This is an absolute surprise," Rickles said. "We traveled the world together, and I love him. He is not a flyer, so I know what it means for him to come here."

Newhart recounted his adventurous journey to Aspen, including lost luggage.

"I said I have to be in Houston on Saturday," he recounted. "My wife said (Aspen) is on the way...I went through all this to give this shmug an award."

"The Rickles Project," which features classic clips, home movies, a personal narrative by the comic himself and interviews with celebrities about Rickles, has no studio distribution deal yet and is "totally unfinished," Landis told reporters after the show. "This is totally independent...Eventually, someone will give us money."

Asked after the show about what he thinks has allowed him to have such a long and storied career, Rickles quipped: "Being Jewish."

He also recounted how HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht, who was also at hand, used to drive him to work during the work on the HBO-produced 1993 Fox sitcom "Daddy Dearest."

Earlier in the day, Rickles was the special guest at the annual party hosted by The Hollywood Reporter at swanky sushi restaurant Matsuhisa.

"It was a struggle early in my career," Rickles told The Hollywood Reporter at the party. "I would play at striptease clubs. Today, they have comedy clubs."

He also had some simple advice for young comedians: "Have an attitude and you'll make it."

Rickles mentioned that he enjoyed his recent guest shot on an episode of the CBS drama "The Unit."

"They had to change things for me," he said. "I played a priest. It was fun."

Rickles also said he is also looking forward to the release in May of his memoir, "Rickles' Book."
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