We thought we knew him, but maybe we had no idea. Always the butt of his own jokes, he made a living out of insulting himself. Rodney Dangerfield (born Jacob Cohen) kicked off his career with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and ended it in 2004 with a coma in a Los Angeles hospital.
Most of us knew him from his trademark “No Respect” stand-up comedy routine or maybe even from one of his often-goofy motion picture appearances. But really there’s a lot we didn’t know. With an on-stage persona like the one he had, we were bound to right him off as just a blue collar guy who happened to trip and fall into show business. But be assured, it was no accident.
Rodney Dangerfield started writing jokes at the age of 15 and then at around 20 years old he began performing his stand up act regularly. For 10 years he hit the road in pursuit of his dream, but his first attempt at comedic super stardom didn’t take, and in the 1950’s he was forced to take a day job as an aluminum siding salesman. Comedy wasn’t paying the bills.
It was only a matter of time until Rodney returned to comedy. Perhaps the aluminum siding business wasn’t as “fulfilling” has he had hoped. Regardless, this time he had momentum. With a chance appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, he was able to reach mainstream America and begin to establish a career in Hollywood. From then he went on to make a number of appearances from The Tonight Show to Saturday Night Live. He also stared in numerous films such as Caddyshack, Back To School, and of course Meet Wally Sparks.
In 1995 Rodney became the first entertainer to personally own his own website. He also established a legendary comedy club in Manhattan called “Dangerfield’s” where talents such as Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, and Tim Allan where discovered. Dangerfield’s now holds the (possibly self proclaimed) title of “Longest Running Comedy Club in the World” and was the location for a number of HBO specials.
Rodney Dangerfield was known as being intensely competitive on stage while being extremely generous off stage. He also was constantly plagued by the public’s perception of him due to his act. An intellectual by nature, he resented people constantly talking down to him, assuming that he was the imbecile portrayed in his routine. In “real life” Rodney was always politically correct and a consummate gentleman.
So please, a little respect for the man in the white shirt and red tie…which by the way is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.