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On Tuesday, October 5th, comedy legend Rodney Dangerfield passed away at the UCLA Medical Center at the age of 82.  Dangerfield had undergone heart valve replacement surgery, which was performed on August 25th.  According to his doctors, Dangerfield suffered a small stroke following the operation and developed abdominal complications.  He had slipped into a coma following the operation but was making significant improvements over the last week, and emerged from the coma.  When Rodney emerged, he kissed me, squeezed my hand and smiled for his doctors, said Dangerfield’s wife, Joan, in a statement.  On his last day, Dangerfield was surrounded by his family, including his children, Brian and Melanie, his father-in-law Smokey, his niece Suzie and his wife, Joan.  He passed away as Frank Sinatra’s song, Come Fly With Me, was playing in the room.

Dangerfield has faced some grave ailments in recent years, including abdominal aortic aneurism surgery in 1992, a double-bypass heart surgery in March of 2000 and an operation three months later to correct another aneurysm.  He also suffered a mild heart attack in November of 2001 just before his birthday.  Additionally, Dangerfield had a rare extracranial-intracranial brain bypass operation in April 2003 to increase blood flow and lessen the risk of the recent heart valve replacement.

Rodney Dangerfield Biography

Born Jacob Cohen on November 22, 1921 in Babylon, Long Island, NY, young Jacob began his career at the age of 15 by writing jokes.  He started performing at amateur nights at 17 under the name, Jack Roy.  For the next decade, Rodney toiled in relative obscurity, traveling the comedy circuit but also working a day job to make ends meet.  He married Joyce Indig, a singer he met at a New York club.  Both had wearied of the uncertainty of a performer’s life, and so Rodney gave up comedy to sell paint and vinyl as the couple had two children, Brian and Melanie, and settled in the suburbs of Englewood, New Jersey.  However, the idyllic suburban life soured as the pair battled. The couple divorced in 1962, remarried a year later and again divorced.

It was at the age of 42 that Dangerfield made the decision to relaunch his career as a performer and comedy writer for the second time.  Dangerfield said, It was like a need.  I had to work.  I had to tell jokes.  I had to write them and tell them.  It was like a fix.  I had the habit.  He didn’t want to break in his new act with any notice, so he asked the owner of New York’s Inwood Lounge, George McFadden, not to bill him as Jack Roy.  McFadden came up with the name Rodney Dangerfield, which has successfully stuck.  He spent his days in a business office and his nights working in New York clubs.   

Dangerfield had his first big break on the "Ed Sullivan Show" which he did 16 times.  A beer commercial and the Carson shows brought him national attention.  During this time he coined his now famous catchline, I get no respect, which perfectly fitted his buy-eyed appearance, and self-depreciating comedy routine.  As his bookings improved, his ex-wife died.  He took over the responsibility of raising his two children.  He decided to quit touring and open his now famous New York nightclub, Dangerfield’s, on First Avenue in Manhattan, so he could stay close to home. 

One of the first comedy clubs, Dangerfield’s was a huge success and paved the way for comedy club venues across the country.  Rodney introduced many of today’s comedy stars to live audiences and television for the first time on his HBO Young Comedians Specials such as Tim Allen, Roseanne, Jim Carrey, Sam Kinison, Jerry Seinfeld, Louie Anderson, Jeff Foxworthy, Bob Saget, Rita Rudner, Robert Townsend, Andy Kaufman, Bob Nelson, Andrew Dice Clay, Carol Leifer, and others.

Dangerfield made his first movie, ’The Projectionist’, in 1971.  But his movie breakthrough came in 1980 with ’Caddyshack’.  This movie endeared Rodney to many of his fans today.  After ’Caddyshack’, Dangerfield continued starring in and sometimes writing films such as ’Easy Money’, ’Back to School’, ’Moving’, ’The Scout’, ’Ladybugs’, and ’Meet Wally Sparks’.  ’Back to School’ was hugely successful, becoming one of the first comedies to gross over $100-million at the box office.  Many fans may also remember Dangerfield deviating from his comedic roles in Oliver Stone’s, ’Natural Born Killers’, where Dangerfield played a sadistic father, to much critical acclaim.    

Till the day he died, Rodney remained very active and had a prolific resume.  Besides being a Las Vegas headliner for over 20 years, he made countless appearances on talk and television variety shows.  Dangerfield won a Grammy Award for his comedy album, ’No Respect’, and was the recipient of the ’Lifetime Creative Achievement Award’ from the 1994 American Comedy Awards and was recently honored with the ’Comedy Idol Award’ by Comedy Central.  Most recently, Rodney released his autobiography in June of this year, ’It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me, A Lifetime of No Respect, but Plenty of Sex and Drugs’ to rave reviews, becoming a national bestseller.

Rodney Dangerfield Jokes

-I’m not a sexy guy. I went to a hooker.  I dropped my pants.  She dropped her price.

-I tell you, I’m not a sexy guy.  I was the centerfold for Playgirl magazine. The staples covered everything!

-What a childhood I had, why, when I took my first step, my old man tripped me!

-Last week I told my psychiatrist, "I keep thinking about suicide." He told me from now on I have to pay in advance.

-When I was a kid I got no respect.  The time I was kidnapped, and the kidnappers sent my parents a note they said, "We want five thousand dollars or you’ll see your kid again.

-I tell ya, my wife was never nice. On our first date, I asked her if I could give her a goodnight kiss on the cheek - she bent over!

-What a dog I got.  His favorite bone is in my arm!

-I worked in a pet store and people kept asking how big I’d get.

-My wife and I were happy for twenty years.  Then we met.

-I’ll tell ya, my wife and I, we don’t think alike. She donates money to the homeless, and I donate money to the topless!

-My doctor told me to watch my drinking.  Now I drink in front of a mirror.  I drink too much.  Way too much.  My doctor drew blood.  He ran a tab.

-I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War my great uncle fought for the west!

-My mother had morning sickness after I was born.

-My mother never breastfed me. She told me that she only liked me as a friend.

-I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.

-One year they wanted to make me poster boy... for birth control.

-I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent back a piece of my finger to my father.  He said he wanted more proof.

-When my old man wanted sex, my mother would show him a picture of me.

-I met the surgeon general. He offered me a cigarette.

-One time I went to a hotel.  I asked the bellhop to handle my bag.  He felt up my wife!

-I’m a bad lover.  Once I caught a peeping tom booing me.

-My wife only has sex with me for a purpose.  Last night she used me to time an egg.

-Last night my wife met me at the front door.  She was wearing a sexy negligee.  The only trouble was, she was coming home.

-A hooker once told me she had a headache.

-If it weren’t for pick-pocketers, I’d have no sex life at all.

-I knew a girl so ugly, they use her in prisons to cure sex offenders.

-I knew a girl so ugly, she had a face like a saint--a Saint Bernard!

-I was tired one night and I went to the bar to have a few drinks. The bartender asked me, What’ll you have?  I said, Surprise me.  He showed me a naked picture of my wife.

-My marriage is on the rocks again.  Yeah, my wife just broke up with her boyfriend.

-I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow.  He told me to wear a brown necktie.

-And we were poor too.  Why, if I wasn’t born a boy, I’d have nothing to play with!