Rodney Dangerfield: Wikis


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Rodney Dangerfield
Dangerfield in New York in 1978
Birth name Jacob Cohen
Born November 22, 1921(1921-11-22)
Babylon, New York, U.S.
Died October 5, 2004 (aged 82)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Nationality American
Years active 1940–1949; 1962–2004
Genres One-liners, word play, black comedy
Subject(s) Self-deprecation, depression, childhood, marriage, human sexuality, aging
Influences Groucho Marx, W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy[1]
Influenced Jay Leno, 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
Grammy Awards
Best Comedy Recording
1981 No Respect
American Comedy Awards
Creative Achievement Award 1995

Rodney Dangerfield (November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004), born Jacob Cohen, was an American comedian and actor, best known for the catchphrases "I don't get no respect" or "I get no respect" and his monologues on that theme.


Early life and career

Dangerfield was born on Long Island in the town of Babylon, the son of Jewish parents. His father was the vaudevillian performer Phil Roy (Philip Cohen). His ancestors came to the United States from Hungary.[5] He would later say that his father "was never home — he was out looking to make other kids," and that his mother "brought him up all wrong."

As a teenager, he got his start writing jokes for standup comics; he became one himself at 19 under the name Jack Roy. He struggled financially for nine years, at one point performing as a singing waiter (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!"

In the early 1960s he started down what would be a long road toward rehabilitating his career, still working as a salesman by day. 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.

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. However, Jack Roy remained his legal name, as he mentioned from time to time.[6] During a question and answer session with the audience on the album No Respect, Rodney joked that his real name was Percival Sweetwater.[citation needed]

Career surge

Fate intervened one Sunday night when The Ed Sullivan Show needed a last-minute replacement for another act. This extremely popular, live, weekly show, hosted by the very influential Sullivan, could make or break a show-business career. The middle-aged, husky Dangerfield, with his pessimistic monologue, was a contrast to the younger, trendier comics usually seen on the Sullivan show, and this alone gave him novelty value.[citation needed]

His success was assured when he told his very first "no respect" joke: "I get no respect. I played hide-and-seek, and they wouldn't even look for me." Dangerfield would also tell conventional jokes in his act: "I grew up in a tough neighborhood. Tough neighborhood! Teachers would get notes from parents saying, 'Please excuse Johnny for the next 5-to-10 years!'" Dangerfield became the surprise hit of the show. Some of Dangerfield's material was unabashedly silly, but with his stop-watch delivery, it hardly mattered. "I used to date a girl from Buffalo," he would announce. "Why can't I meet a girl with normal parents?" He would inform his audience, "I asked my wife 'is there somebody else?' She said, 'there MUST be.'"

Invariably the butt of his own jokes, the disrespect began with his parents almost at birth, continued through schoolyard taunting by classmates, followed by failure in the dating scene, right up to his insulting wife.

Finally established as a reliable stand-up comedian, he would write thousands more of these self-deprecating jokes. Dangerfield began headlining shows in Las Vegas and made frequent encore appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.[7] He became a regular on The Dean Martin Show, and appeared on The Tonight Show a total of 35 times.[8] Dangerfield bought a Manhattan nightclub in 1969 in order to remain near his children, whose mother was too ill to take care of them.[9] "Dangerfield's" was the venue for an HBO show which helped popularize many stand-up comics, including Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, Rita Rudner, Andrew Dice Clay and Bob Saget.[citation needed]

Rodney Dangerfield's comedy album No Respect.

His comedy album, No Respect, won a Grammy Award.[10] One of his TV specials featured a musical number, "Rappin' Rodney”, which soon became one of the first MTV music videos.[citation needed]

Career peak

Dangerfield's career peaked during the early 1980s, when he began acting in comedy movies. His appearance in Caddyshack led to starring roles in Easy Money and Back To School. In Back to School, Dangerfield's writing described the character Lou (Burt Young) as "nice and tough" — he put one son through college and another through a wall. (On The Tonight Show, he applied this same description to his doctor, Dr. Vinny Boombotz.)

Throughout the 1980s, Dangerfield appeared in a commercial for Miller Lite beer, where various celebrities who had appeared in the ads were holding a bowling match. After he was told "all we need is one pin, Rodney", Dangerfield's ball was shown going down the alley and bouncing off the pins.

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 had written his own lines.[citation needed]

Dangerfield was infamously rejected for membership in the Motion Picture Academy in 1995 by then head of the Academy's Actors Section, Roddy McDowell.[11] After fan protests the Academy reconsidered, but Dangerfield then refused to accept membership.

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

Dangerfield also appeared in the 2000 Adam Sandler vehicle 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.[citation needed] When asked about the honor, he joked that the museum was using his shirt to clean Charles Lindbergh's plane.[citation needed]

Dangerfield played an important role in comedian Jim Carrey's rise to stardom. In the 1980s after watching him in The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, he signed Carrey to open his tour performances.

Personal life

He was married to Joyce Indig with whom he had a son, Brian, and a daughter, Melanie. From 1993 to his death he was married to Joan Child, who was instrumental in setting up his Internet site. He was also very good friends with comic Sam Kinison.

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,"[12] 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.[13]

Later years and death

Dangerfield's headstone at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery

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 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. However, on October 5, 2004, he died at the UCLA Medical Center, from complications of the surgery he had undergone in August. He was a month and a half short of his 83rd birthday. Dangerfield was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. In keeping with his "No Respect" persona, his headstone reads simply, "Rodney Dangerfield...There goes the neighborhood.”[14]

Joan Child 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.[15]


UCLA's Division of Neurosurgery named a suite of operating rooms after him, and gave him the "Rodney Respect Award" which his wife 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.[16]

Saturday Night Live ran a short sketch of Dangerfield (Played by Darrell Hammond)at the gates of heaven. St. Peter mentions that he heard Rodney 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 St. Peter was so interested. St 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.[17]

The Northern Irish rock band, The Dangerfields, are named in tribute to him.[citation needed]

The ending credits of The George Lopez Show feature an homage to Rodney Dangerfield.[citation needed]

In 2007, it was reported that a Rodney Dangerfield tattoo is among the most popular celebrity tattoos in the United States.[18]

On Triple M's now defunct radio program 'Get This', co-anchor Ed Kavalee used to champion the digital addition of Rodney Dangerfield to movies in an attempt to make them more interesting. Callers would often make their own suggestions regarding this.

In the final taping of "the Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on May 29, 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—in the case of "Tonight," guitar player Kevin Eubanks—and the sidekick sets up the joke by asking just how bad that something is.


TV work


  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. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  4. ^ "". Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. BBC One. 2008-01-11.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Kapelovitz, Dan (October 2004). "Clear and Present Dangerfield". Hustler. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  7. ^ cast list for Ed Sullivan Show
  8. ^ episode guide for Tonight Show
  9. ^ Associated Press (2004-10-07). "Rodney Dangerfield dead at 82". Retrieved 2006-09-14. 
  10. ^ award winners search from
  11. ^
  12. ^ Hedegaard, Erik (2004-05-19). "Gone to Pot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  13. ^ Pearlman, Jeff (2004-07-18). "Dangerfield is no laughing matter". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2006-09-14. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ of California website
  17. ^ reference to Legends: Rodney Dangerfield
  18. ^ Chen, Perry; Aviva Yael (2007-02-23). "Op-Art: All the Body’s a Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Rodney Dangerfield (November 22, 1921October 5, 2004), born Jacob Cohen, was an American comedian and actor.



  • I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous, everyone hasn't met me yet.
    • Quoted in Bob Fenster, Laugh Off: The Comedy Showdown Between Real Life and the Pros (2005), p. 37
  • There goes the neighborhood.
    • Epitaph, quoted in Patricia Brooks, Laid to Rest in California (2006), p. 20

It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs (2004)

  • I was an ugly kid. When I was born, after the doctor cut the cord, he hung himself.
    • p. 4
  • In my life I've been through plenty. when I was three years old, my parents got a dog. I was jealous of the dog, so they got rid of me.
    • p. 6
  • What a childhood I had. Once on my birthday my ol' man gave me a bat. The first day I played with it, it flew away.
    • p. 7
  • I told my doctor I broke my arm in two places. He told me to keep out of those places.
    • p. 8
  • When I was a kid, I never went to Disneyland. My ol' man told me Mickey Mouse died in a cancer experiement.
    • p. 9
  • When I was a kid I got no respect. When my parents got divorced there was a custody fight over me... and no one showed up.
    • p. 10
  • I like to date schoolteachers. If you do something wrong, they make you do it over again.
    • p. 12
  • My old man never liked me. He gave me my allowance in traveler's checks.
    • p. 13
  • I live in a tough neighborhood. They got a children's zoo. Last week, four kids escaped.
    • p. 14
  • A homeless guy came up to me on the street, said he hadn't eaten in four days. I told him, "Man, I wish I had your willpower."
    • p. 15
  • I tell ya, I grew up in a tough neighborhood. The other night a guy pulled a knife on me. I could see it wasn't a real professional job. There was butter on it.
    • p. 16
  • I was an ugly kid. I worked in a pet store. People kept asking how big I get.
    • p. 17
  • I tell ya, my wife's a lousy cook. After dinner, I don't brush my teeth. I count them.
    • p. 18
  • What a childhood I had. My mother never breast-fed me. She said she liked me as a friend.
    • p. 19
  • I tell ya, my family were always big drinkers. When I was a kid, I was missing. They put my picture on a bottle of Scotch.
    • p. 21
  • I tell ya, my wife likes to talk during sex. Last night, she called me from a motel.
    • p. 59
  • When I got back into show business in 1961, I felt — for obvious reasons — that nothing in my life went right, and I realized that millions of people felt the same way. So when I first came back my catch phrase was "nothing goes right." Early on, that was my setup for a lot of jokes.
    • p. 126.
  • I don't get no respect!
    • p. 127


Because Dangerfield's signature style is to be self-demeaning, many jokes of this type by other comedians are wrongly attributed to Dangerfield.

  • I was so ugly... When I was born, the doctor slapped my mother!

External links

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