Rodney Dangerfield

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Rodney Dangerfield
RodneyDangerfield1978.jpg
Dangerfield during an open air show in New York in 1978
Birth name Jacob Rodney Cohen
Born (1921-11-22)November 22, 1921
Deer Park, New York, U.S.
Died October 5, 2004(2004-10-05) (aged 82)
Westwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, Film
Nationality American
Years active 1940–1949
1962–2004
Genres Surreal humor, Wit, Black comedy, Deadpan, Jewish humor
Influences Groucho Marx, W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Henny Youngman,[1] Don Rickles
Influenced Norm Macdonald, Conan O'Brien, Robert Klein,[2] Bob Saget,[3] Chris Rock[4]
Spouse Joyce Indig (1949–1962; 1963–1970; 2 children)
Joan Child (1993–2004)
Notable works and roles Al Czervik in Caddyshack
HBO television specials
Thornton Melon in Back to School
Ed Wilson in Natural Born Killers
Monty Capuletti in Easy Money
Signature Rodney Dangerfield Signature.svg
Website rodney.com
Grammy Awards
Best Comedy Recording
1981 No Respect
American Comedy Awards
Creative Achievement Award 1995

Rodney Dangerfield (born Jacob Rodney Cohen, November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004) was an American comedian and actor, known for the catchphrase "I don't get no respect!" and his monologues on that theme. He is also remembered for his 1980s film roles, especially in Easy Money, Caddyshack, and Back to School.

Early life[edit]

Dangerfield was born in Deer Park within the Town of Babylon, New York, in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.[5] He was the son of Jewish parents, the vaudevillian performer Phil Roy (Philip Cohen) and Dotty Teitelbaum. His ancestors came to the United States from Hungary.[6] His father was never home and he would only usually see him twice a year. Several years later, his father begged for forgiveness and Dangerfield forgave him.[7]

After their father abandoned the family, his mother moved him and his sister to Kew Gardens, Queens and he attended Richmond Hill High School (Queens, New York) where he graduated in 1939. To support himself and his family, he worked jobs like selling newspapers (in which he would get paid a dollar), selling ice cream at the beach and delivering groceries.[7]

At the age of 15, he began to write for standup comedians, and began to perform at the age of 20 under the name Jack Roy.[8] He struggled financially for nine years, at one point performing as a singing waiter until he was fired, and also working as a performing acrobatic diver before giving up show business to take a job selling aluminum siding to support his wife and family. He later said that he was so little known then that "at the time I quit, I was the only one who knew I quit!"

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

In the early 1960s he started down what would be a long road toward rehabilitating his career as an entertainer, still working as a salesman by day. He divorced his first wife Joyce in 1961 and returned to the stage, performing at many hotels in the Catskill Mountains, but still with minimal success. He fell in debt about $20,000 by his own estimate, and couldn't get booked. As Rodney would later joke, "I played one club...it was so far out, my act was reviewed in Field & Stream."[9]

He came to realize that what he lacked was an "image"—a well-defined on-stage persona that audiences could relate to and that would distinguish him from similar comics. Returning to the East Coast, after being shunned by the premier comedy venues, he began to develop a character for whom nothing goes right.

He took the name Rodney Dangerfield, which had been used as the comical name of a faux cowboy star by Jack Benny on his radio program at least as early as the December 21, 1941, broadcast and later as a pseudonym by Ricky Nelson on the TV program The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The Benny character, who also received little or no respect from the outside world, served as a great inspiration to Dangerfield while he was developing his own comedy character. The "Biography" program also tells of the time Benny visited Dangerfield backstage after one of his performances. During this visit Benny complimented him on developing such a wonderful comedy character and style. However, Jack Roy remained Dangerfield's legal name,[10] as he mentioned in several interviews. During a question-and-answer session with the audience on the album No Respect, Dangerfield joked that his real name was Percival Sweetwater.

Career surge[edit]

On Sunday March 5, 1967, when The Ed Sullivan Show needed a last-minute replacement for another act.[11] Dangerfield became the surprise hit of the show.

Dangerfield began headlining shows in Las Vegas and made frequent encore appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.[12] He became a regular on The Dean Martin Show and appeared on The Tonight Show a total of 35 times.[13] In 1969, Rodney Dangerfield teamed up with longtime friend Anthony Bevacqua to build the Dangerfield's comedy club. Rodney now had a venue in which to perform on a regular basis, without having to constantly travel. The club became a huge success. Dangerfield's has been in continuous operation for over 40 years.[14] Dangerfield's was the venue for several HBO shows which helped popularize many standup comics, including Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Robert Townsend, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks, Rita Rudner, Andrew Dice Clay, Louie Anderson, Dom Irrera and Bob Saget.[citation needed]

Rodney Dangerfield's comedy album No Respect.

His comedy album, No Respect, won a Grammy Award.[15] One of his TV specials featured a musical number, "Rappin' Rodney", which in December 1983 became one of the first Hot 100 rap records, and the associated video became an early MTV hit.[16] In the video, which featured cameo appearances by Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci) as a last rites priest munching on Rodney's last meal of fast food in a styrofoam container and Pat Benatar as a masked executioner pulling a hangman's knot, in a dream sequence Dangerfield is condemned to die and doesn't get any respect even at Heaven, where the gates close without him being permitted to enter.

Career peak[edit]

Dangerfield's career peaked during the early 1980s, when he began acting in hit comedy movies. His appearance in Caddyshack led to starring roles in Easy Money and Back To School. His acting career had begun much earlier, in obscure movies like The Projectionist (1971).

Throughout the 1980s, Dangerfield appeared in a series of commercials for Miller Lite beer, including one where various celebrities who had appeared in the ads were holding a bowling match whose score became tied. After a bearded Ben Davidson told Rodney, "All we need is one pin, Rodney", Dangerfield's ball went down the alley and bounced perpendicularly off the head pin, landing in the gutter without knocking down any of the pins.

One of Dangerfield's more memorable performances was in the 1980 golf comedy Caddyshack, in which he played a nouveau riche developer who was a guest at a golf club and began shaking up the establishment of the club's old guard. His role was initially smaller, but because he, Chevy Chase, and especially Bill Murray (who also appeared in the movie) were so deft at improvisation, their roles were greatly expanded, much to the chagrin of some of their castmates.[17]

In a change of pace from the comedy persona that made him famous, he played an abusive father in Natural Born Killers in a scene for which he wrote or rewrote all of his own lines.[18]

Dangerfield was rejected for membership in the Motion Picture Academy in 1995 by the head of the Academy's Actors Section, Roddy McDowall.[19] After fan protests the Academy reconsidered, but Dangerfield then refused to accept membership.

Dangerfield appeared in an episode of The Simpsons titled "Burns, Baby Burns" wherein he played a character who is essentially a parody of his own persona, Mr. Burns' son Larry Burns. He also appeared as himself in an episode of Home Improvement.

Dangerfield also appeared in the 2000 Adam Sandler film Little Nicky, playing Lucifer, the father of Satan (Harvey Keitel) and grandfather of Nicky (Sandler).

He was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, which put one of his trademark white shirts and red ties on display. When he handed the shirt to the museum's curator, Rodney joked, "I have a feeling you're going to use this to clean Lindbergh's plane."[20]

Dangerfield played an important role in comedian Jim Carrey's rise to stardom. In the 1980s, after watching Carrey perform at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Rodney signed Carrey to open for his Las Vegas show. The two would tour together for about two more years.[21]

Personal life[edit]

He was twice married to Joyce Indig, with whom he had a son, Brian, and a daughter, Melanie. One of Dangerfield's jokes stated that one Christmas he gave Brian a BB gun for the holiday. At the same Christmas, his son gave Rodney a sweatshirt with a bulls eye on the back.[22] In 1970, he asked international platform speaker Dr. Cody Sweet to marry him. She turned him down respectfully. From 1993 to his death, he was married to Joan Child. He and comic Sam Kinison were also very good friends.

The confusion of Dangerfield's stage persona with his real-life personality was a conception that he long resented. While Child described him as "classy, gentlemanly, sensitive and intelligent,"[23] people who met the comedian nonetheless treated him as the belligerent loser whose character he adopted in performance. In 2004, Dangerfield's autobiography, It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs (ISBN 0-06-621107-7) was published. The book's original title was My Love Affair With Marijuana, a reference to his smoking material of choice for 60 years.[24]

Later years and death[edit]

Dangerfield's headstone at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery

In 2001, Dangerfield had a mild heart attack while backstage at the Tonight Show. During Dangerfield's hospital stay, the staff were reportedly upset that he smoked marijuana in his room.[25] But he was back at the Tonight Show a year later, performing on his 81st birthday.[25] On April 8, 2003, Dangerfield underwent brain surgery to improve blood flow in preparation for heart valve-replacement surgery on August 24, 2004. Upon entering the hospital, he uttered another characteristic one-liner when asked how long he would be hospitalized: "If all goes well, about a week. If not, about an hour and a half."

In October 2003, the Chicago Tribune,[26] and numerous other media outlets as well, reported that Rodney met with members of the Raelian religion to discuss cloning himself. Joan Child, who was rumored to be a member of the religion, appeared with Rodney on television to discuss the meeting.

In September 2004, it was revealed that Dangerfield had been in a coma for several weeks. Afterward, he began breathing on his own and showing signs of awareness when visited by friends. He died on October 5, 2004–a month and a half shy of his 83rd birthday–at the UCLA Medical Center, from complications of the surgery he had undergone in August. Dangerfield was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. His headstone reads, "Rodney Dangerfield... There goes the neighborhood.”[27]

Joan held an event in which the word "respect" had been emblazoned in the sky, while each guest was given a live Monarch butterfly for a Native American butterfly-release ceremony led by Farrah Fawcett.[28]

Legacy[edit]

UCLA’s Division of Neurosurgery named a suite of operating rooms after him and gave him the “Rodney Respect Award”, which his widow presented to Jay Leno on October 20, 2005. It was presented on behalf of the David Geffen School of Medicine/Division of Neurosurgery at UCLA at their 2005 Visionary Ball.[29]

Saturday Night Live ran a short sketch of Dangerfield (played by Darrell Hammond) at the gates of heaven. Saint Peter mentions that he heard Dangerfield got no respect in life, which prompts Dangerfield to spew an entire string of his famous one-liners. After he's done, he asks why Saint Peter was so interested. Saint Peter replies, “I just wanted to hear those jokes one more time” and waves him into heaven.

On September 10, 2006, Comedy Central aired a special titled Legends: Rodney Dangerfield which commemorated his life and legacy. Featured comedians included Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Saget, Jerry Stiller, Kevin Kline and Jeff Foxworthy.[30]

In 2007, it was reported that a Rodney Dangerfield tattoo is among the most popular celebrity tattoos in the United States.[31]

In The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 29 May 2009, Leno credited Dangerfield with the style of joke Leno had been using for the past few years. The format of the joke is that the comedian tells a sidekick how bad something is, and the sidekick—in this case, guitar player Kevin Eubanks—sets up the joke by asking just how bad that something is.[citation needed]

Impressed by Dangerfield's role in Caddyshack, Europet's design manager Allen Shuemaker brought forth the idea of creating a line of animal chew toys modeled after the comedian. The line had a short run in 1989 and, in recent years, have become highly desirable for a small group of collectors.

In the 2009 Judd Apatow film Funny People, a large framed portrait of Dangerfield performing standup is seen among several comedian portraits decorated throughout the apartment where Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman's characters reside.

Filmography[edit]

TV work[edit]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Title Year Notes
What's in a Name? / The Loser 1966 / 1977
I Don't Get No Respect 1980
No Respect 1980 #48 US
Rappin' Rodney 1983 #36 US
La Contessa 1995
Romeo Rodney 2005
Greatest Bits 2008

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Year Notes
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rodney Dangerfield 2005

References[edit]

  1. ^ Biography: Rodney Dangerfield, The Biography Channel, January 21, 2010
  2. ^ Jerry Seinfeld: The Comedian Award, HBO, April 1, 2007
  3. ^ "Bob Saget on Tom Green Live - Episode 168". Tom Green Live. ManiaTV!. 2007-08-02. Archived from the original on 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  4. ^ Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Season 14. 2008-01-11. BBC One.
  5. ^ "Rodney Dangerfield, Comic Seeking Respect, Dies at 82" New York Times October 6, 2004
  6. ^ It's not easy bein' me: a lifetime of no respect but plenty of sex and drugs - Rodney Dangerfield - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  7. ^ a b "Dangerfield: summer-film comet". Deseret News. 1986-08-26. Retrieved 2013-08-26. 
  8. ^ "Rodney Dangerfield". Movieactors.com. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  9. ^ "Rodney Dangerfield Remarries . . . And This Time He's Sober." Article at abcnews.go.com on August 24, 2000. [1]
  10. ^ Kapelovitz, Dan (October 2004). "Clear and Present Dangerfield". Hustler. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  11. ^ "Rodney Dangerfield | Ed Sullivan Show". Edsullivan.com. 1967-03-05. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  12. ^ cast list for Ed Sullivan Show
  13. ^ episode guide for Tonight Show
  14. ^ "Rodney Dangerfield dead at 82". MSNBC.com. Associated Press. 2004-10-07. Retrieved 2006-09-14. 
  15. ^ award winners search from grammy.com[dead link]
  16. ^ "Rappin' Rodney Dangerfield - No Respect in 1983". Fourth Grade Nothing. 2011-08-10. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  17. ^ Caddyshack: The Inside Story, Bio.HD 13 December 2009.
  18. ^ De Vries, Hilary. "Natural Born Actor : Comic titan Rodney Dangerfield is getting respect for his performance as a hateful dad in 'Natural Born Killers.'" article in the L.A. Times on August 21, 1994. [2]
  19. ^ "Dangerfield dies". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-10-06. 
  20. ^ "AP news report in the ''Ocala Star-Banner,'' April 29, 1982". News.google.com. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  21. ^ Jim Carrey's foreword in It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs by Rodney Dangerfield. (c) 2004, HarperCollins Publishers.[3]
  22. ^ "vintage Rodney Dangerfield comedy 1978". YouTube. 2011-04-15. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  23. ^ Hedegaard, Erik (2004-05-19). "Gone to Pot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  24. ^ Pearlman, Jeff (2004-07-18). "Dangerfield is no laughing matter". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2006-09-14. 
  25. ^ a b Brownfield, Paul (December 21, 2002). "Comic genius Dangerfield still cutting jokes to thwart boredom". Journal - Gazette (Ft. Wayne, Ind.). Los Angeles Times. p. 3.D. 
  26. ^ "2 Funny Bones Better Than 1". Chicago Tribune. October 14, 2003. 
  27. ^ Gary Wayne. "Rodney Dangerfield's grave (photo)". Seeing-stars.com. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  28. ^ [4][dead link]
  29. ^ "Neurosurgery Division to Present Jay Leno With Rodney Dangerfield Legacy Aw" (Press release). Regents of the University of California. 14 Sep 2005. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  30. ^ reference to Legends: Rodney Dangerfield
  31. ^ Chen, Perry; Yael, Aviva (2007-02-23). "Op-Art: All the Body’s a Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 

External links[edit]