Rodney Dangerfield Dies at Age 82
Rodney Dangerfield, the bug-eyed comic whose self-deprecating one-liners brought him stardom in clubs, television and movies and made his lament “I don’t get no respect” a catchphrase, died Tuesday. He was 82.
Dangerfield, who fell into a coma after undergoing heart surgery, died at 1:20 p.m., said publicist Kevin Sasaki. Dangerfield had a heart valve replaced Aug. 25 at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center. Sasaki said in a statement that Dangerfield suffered a small stroke after the operation and developed infectious and abdominal complications. But in the past week he had emerged from the coma, the publicist said.
Clad in a black suit, red tie and white shirt with collar that seemed too tight, Dangerfield convulsed audiences with lines such as: “When I was born, I was so ugly that the doctor slapped my mother,” “When I started in show business, I played one club that was so far out my act was reviewed in Field and Stream,” and “Every time I get in an elevator, the operator says the same thing to me: `Basement?'” In a 1986 interview, he explained the origin of his “respect” trademark: “I had this joke: `I played hide and seek; they wouldn’t even look for me.’ To make it work better, you look for something to put in front of it: I was so poor, I was so dumb, so this, so that. I thought, `Now what fits that joke?’ Well, `No one liked me’ was all right. But then I thought, a more profound thing would be, `I get no respect.'”
Dangerfield is survived by his wife, Joan, and two children from a previous marriage.
Rodney Dangerfield (news), the goggle-eyed comic famed for his self-deprecating one-liners and signature phrase “I can’t get no respect,” died on Tuesday at age 82, his spokesman said. A veteran Las Vegas headliner and TV variety-show fixture who became a pop culture sensation in middle age with a string of broad film comedies starting with “Caddyshack” in 1980, Dangerfield died at the UCLA Medical Center, where he had undergone heart valve replacement surgery on Aug. 25, spokesman Kevin Sasaki said.
Although his initial forays into show business fizzled, Dangerfield successfully restarted his career as a comedian in his 40s. Opening one of America’s first comedy clubs — the now-famous Dangerfield’s in Manhattan — he went on to become a national sensation in his own right and helped launch the careers of such comics as Jim Carrey (news) and Jerry Seinfeld. His famous trademark white shirt and red tie are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Born Jacob Cohen in Babylon, New York, in 1921, Dangerfield began writing jokes as a teenager, struggling as a comic and singing waiter in the “Borscht Belt” resorts of the Catskill Mountains under the name of Jack Roy in the 1940s. Leaving show business to earn a living as a house painter and aluminum siding salesman, he returned to the comedy circuit about a decade later, this time as Rodney Dangerfield.
He eventually opened a New York nightclub and became a nationally recognized act with comedy albums and numerous TV appearances. Along the way he is credited with helping give a start to an impressive array of once-obscure talents who went on to become stars, among them Carrey, Seinfeld, Roseanne and the late Sam Kinison. Moving easily from nightclubs to TV to commercials to film, Dangerfield remained popular well past the peak of his career in the 1980s, forever tugging at his tie and drawing laughs with his catch phrase “I can’t get no respect.”
Dangerfield made his film debut in the 1971 low-budget comedy “The Projectionist,” playing the dual supporting roles of a tyrannical cinema manager and a serial villain, The Bat. But his big-screen breakout came in a string of rowdy comedies in the 1980s — “Caddyshack,” “Easy Money” and “Back to School.” His movie appearances generally have mirrored his stand-up comedy persona, with Dangerfield playing boisterous, casually ribald characters with a rapid-fire patter of one-liners.
His passing isn’t exactly a shock given that I’d read about the complications from his recent surgery but it’s still a shame. Dangerfield was definitely one of a kind.