In 1973, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan found himself on the end of a merciless barrage of jokes and jabs from one of the fiercest men in all of comedy: Don Rickles.
As part of the fifth Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, Reagan clapped and laughed during a night of fun that would see the future President take it all in stride.
The actor-turned-governor was not the usual subject of jokes on such an occasion, but Reagan was already becoming a nationwide celebrity. The eyes of the country were focusing in on a man who would ultimately be regarded as one of the greatest Presidents in history.
When he approached the podium, Rickles wasted no time in kicking off his slew of quips.
“The greatest thing I can say to Governor Reagan or Reagan (mispronounced), whatever they call you. What do they call you?” Rickles said as he started in on his jokes aimed at Reagan.
Check out the entire performance in the video below:
“Is this fun, Governor?” Rickles asks Reagan in a moment of hysterics.
“Better than trying to hit Jesse Unruh with your car,” Rickles jokes. Unruh unsuccessfully ran for governor against Reagan during the 1970 election.
“The governor is the greatest politician of all time; he laughs at everything. ‘My brother died!’” Rickles exclaims in jest while imitating Reagan’s laugh. Reagan could not keep a straight face in the moment.
While Reagan was the man of the hour, Rickles could not hold back and included the night’s host, Dean Martin, in his act, as well.
“And that’s what makes our country so fantastic, that we have different people. As I do, I stand on this stage… next to Dean Martin, one of the great guys. And I say this from the bottom of my heart, Dean: you have a problem,” Rickles says to Martin.
The Dean Martin Roast was the first time Rickles and Reagan were together, but it would not be the last. The future President would again be at the receiving end of Rickles’ ruthless act during Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985.