Jimmy Kimmel broke from his usual laugh-filled opening monologue on Thursday night to give an emotional tribute to late comedian and friend Don Rickles.
"Jimmy Kimmel Live" filmed after news of the comedian's death broke earlier in the day and the host devoted the first 12 minutes of his show to Rickles' memory.
"I'm gonna tell you right in front, I'm gonna cry, I'm already crying, which is embarrassing but I'm not good with this sort of thing," he said at the top of the show, voice already cracking. "We lost someone that I love very much today. Don Rickles passed away this morning, he was 90 years old and I know it sounds crazy to say he was too young, but he was because he was youthful and funny and sharp and generous."
Throughout his monologue, Kimmel paused as he choked up and fought back tears while sharing some of his personal memories with the famous insult comedian.
"I was fortunate enough to not only have Don on this show as my guest, but also to become close to him and his wife Barbara, which was a lot of fun for me," he continued.
"The first time Don was on this show was four years after we started. We'd been trying to book him since the beginning. We asked him to do the show over and over again. He didn't know what this was. He knew 'The Tonight Show' and Letterman and that's it," Kimmel explained. "But finally, after we bothered him like 20 times, he gave up and he did the show for my birthday in 2006. It was exciting, it was like I was in some kind of talk show fantasy camp. It was like being a real talk show host for a minute."
Kimmel said Rickles "made fun of everybody."
"He would come here and he would make fun of me, Guillermo, the band, the audience, the guy who put the microphone on his lapel. He'd make fun of the vegetable platter in his dressing room," he continued. "When he'd come to my house, he'd yell about the stairs, as if I put them there specifically to inconvenience him."
But their bond went far beyond roasting each other. "He would always ask about my parents, my kids, When my Uncle Frank passed away, I called him and asked him to be the guest on that show, which was a tough show, and he helped all of us through it," Kimmel said.
He ended his tribute by reading some of the burn-filled notes Rickles sent him, then played a montage of the late comedian's appearances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."