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

Early life and career

He was born on Long Island in the town of Babylon, the son of vaudevillian Phil Roy (Philip Cohen). 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), 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 a comical name by Jack Benny on his radio program at least as early as the December 12, 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.[3] During a question and answer session with the audience on the album "No Respect," Rodney joked that his real name is Percival Sweetwater.

Fate intervened one Sunday night in New York, when The Ed Sullivan Show needed a last-minute replacement for another act. This live, weekly talent 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 a novelty value. His success was assured when he told his very first "no respect" joke: "I don't 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.

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. He became a regular on The Dean Martin Show and appeared on The Tonight Show 70 times.

He bought a Manhattan nightclub in 1969 in order to remain near his children after their mother had died.[4] "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.

Rodney Dangerfield's comedy album No Respect.

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

His career peaked during the early 1980s, when he became a movie star. 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.)

He played an abusive father in Natural Born Killers in a scene where he wrote his own lines.

In 1994, Rodney Dangerfield won an American Comedy Award for lifetime creative achievement. He was also recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, which put one of his trademark white shirts and red ties on display. When asked about the honor, he joked that the museum was using his shirt to clean Charles Lindbergh's plane.

Personal life

He was married to Joyce Indig with whom he had a son named Brian and a daughter named Melanie. From 1993 to his death he was married to Joan Child, who was instrumental in setting up his Internet site.

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" (yet he can make his eyes go big and small within seconds) [5], 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 the drug he smoked daily for 60 years.[6]

In 1995, his application for membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was rejected. At the time, he commented on how then-president of AMPAS, Roddy McDowall, who acted in a monkey suit in the Planet of the Apes series of films, possibly felt that Dangerfield was not dignified enough to join the organization. AMPAS would later offer membership, an offer he declined.

Dangerfield lived in his later years under his legal name "Jack Roy”, which he used in some of his skits, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he raised his two children. The family owned at least one dog, which father or daughter (or both) walked regularly. Despite living inside a metropolitan city, Dangerfield was not a noticeable figure. He was said to have liked strolling to the New York Health and Racquet Club in his robe and he always had a touring bus (a rental) readily parked outside his apartment building.

Chris Rock once remarked that he was in Catch A Rising Star one night when "Rodney showed up in his robe“. Rock said, "He must have lived down the block" — Dangerfield's was less than a mile from home, a place he could be found most anytime he wasn't touring. Despite his stage persona, he was generally well-respected in his daily life, very private and secluded, but polite if engaged.

Later years and death

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 one-liner of the type for which he was known: When asked how long he would be hospitalized, he said, "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, where he had undergone the surgery in August. He 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.” [1].

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.


UCLA's Division of Neurosurgery has named a suite of operating rooms after him and given him the "Rodney Respect Award" which his wife presented to Jay Leno on October 20, 2005, on behalf of the David Geffen School of Medicine/Division of Neurosurgery at UCLA at their 2005 Visionary Ball.

Comedy Central aired a special titled Legends: Rodney Dangerfield on September 10, 2006, 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.

Northern Irish rock band The Dangerfields are named in tribute to him.

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 by a small group of collectors.

Cultural Effect

In 2007 it was reported that a Rodney Dangerfield tattoo is among the most popular celebrity tattoos in the United States, generally by people in their late 20s or early 30s who got the tattoo in the 1990s.[7]

References in pop culture

* The bipedal, talking shark from Hanna-Barbara's cartoon Jabberjaw (voiced by Frank Welker) is the combined characters of Curly from The Three Stooges, as evident by his persona and voice; and Rodney Dangerfield, frequently using his famous catch phrase, "I don't get no respect”.
* In November 1996, he appeared on The Simpsons episode "Burns, Baby Burns" as Mr. Burns' long-lost, illegitimate son Larry. The character was modeled on Dangerfield himself, right down to his tie tug and the line, "I don't get no regard -- and no esteem, neither”.
* He had a famous falling out with former Howard Stern Show writer Jackie Martling over a loan Rodney made to him the in late 1970s. Jackie claimed that he paid Rodney back in jokes and that the debt was settled.
* On The George Lopez Show episode "George is Lie-Able For Benny's Unhappiness", George makes a comment about his friend's mother's large bra: "They're so big they still got snow on 'em in the summer time”. George's mother overhears him and George explains by saying "What!? I heard it off a guy on TV that don't get no respect", an obvious reference to Dangerfield's catchphrase.
* On Adam Sandler's film Little Nicky, Dangerfield plays the first devil ever, Lucifer. When Nicky's brother claims the throne, he throws Lucifer (who is Nicky's, Adrian's, and Cassius' grandfather) out of his way. While Dangerfield is lying on the ground, he says "Even in Hell I don't get no respect”.
* "Rock It Like This" by Run DMC includes the lyric "I'm not Rodney Dangerfield, so give me respect".
* In the Disney movie Aladdin, the Genie takes on the form of Rodney when delivering the line, "I can't believe it; I'm losin' to a rug!".
* T.I. dissed Ludacris in a song with Young Buck called "Stomp." His lyrics were: "All you get is Rodney Dangerfield: no respect".
* Rodney was portrayed in Celebrity Deathmatch, defeating Rob Schneider in one episode and Don Rickles in another.
* Rodney appeared in the Sum 41 music video for the song "In Too Deep"
* In episode 4.12 of the NBC sitcom The Office, Michael Scott performs a Rodney Dangerfield impersonation.
* At the end of The Onion Movie Rodney says, "Hey everybody, we're all gonna get laid". This is a reference to the 1980 movie Caddyshack, where Rodney's character Al Czervik says the same line.

Selected filmography

* The Projectionist (1971)
* Caddyshack (1980)
* Easy Money (1983) (also writer)
* Back to School (1986) (also writer)
* Moving (1988) (Cameo)
* Rover Dangerfield (1991) (voice) (also writer and producer)
* Ladybugs (1992)
* Natural Born Killers (1994)
* Casper (1995) (cameo)
* Meet Wally Sparks (1997) (also writer and producer)
* Rusty: A Dog's Tale (1998) (voice)
* The Godson (1998)
* Pirates: 3D Show (1999) (short subject)
* My 5 Wives (2000) (also writer and producer)
* Little Nicky (2000)
* Back by Midnight (2002) (also writer)
* The 4th Tenor (2002) (also writer)
* Three 'S' a Crowd (2005)
* Angels with Angles (2005)
* The Onion Movie (2008)

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