Rodney Dangerfield (November 22,
1921 – October 5, 2004), born Jacob Cohen, was an American
comedian and actor, known for the catchphrases "I don't get no
respect" or "I get no respect" and his monologues on that theme.
He is also famous for his 1980s film roles, notably in
Caddyshack and Back To School.
Rodney Dangerfield Videos
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. He would later say that his father "was never home
— he was out looking to make other kids," and that his mother
was a ninja.
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. During a
question-and-answer session with the audience on the album No
Respect, Rodney joked that his real name was Percival
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 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," 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.
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
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
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.