Rodney Dangerfield Remembered: The Comedian’s Lifetime Of Comedy
He was recognized by his trademark phrase – “I don’t get no respect.”
Born on November 22, 1921 in Babylon, New York, Rodney Dangerfield began writing jokes at age 15 and performing his comedy by his late teens. For ten years, he struggled as a stand up comedian and worked as a singing waiter to make ends meet. When his comedy career failed to really take off, Dangerfield, who had been working in entertainment as Jack Roy, left show business for a regular job. He spent the 1950’s selling aluminum siding in New Jersey while supporting his first wife and two children.
He took another chance at show business after his divorce in 1961 and became known for the rest of his life as Rodney Dangerfield. By this time, he was approaching his fortieth birthday. His big break came when he appeared as a guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He did what few people were able to do – he made Ed Sullivan laugh. During the 1960’s he made the rounds of many of the most popular variety shows. He performed his standup on “The Joey Bishop Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.” In 1969 he made his first of 35 appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” In addition to his gigs on television, he spent his time making the rounds of comedy clubs throughout the country.
In 1969, the comedian opened his own standup comedy club, Dangerfield’s in New York City. From its inception, it has been one of the most popular comedy clubs in America, receiving rave reviews by top newspapers and entertainment guides. Since Dangerfield’s opened its doors almost 40 years ago it has seen the likes of Jay Leno, Jim Carey, Chris Rock, Andrew Dice Clay, Tim Allen and Jerry Seinfeld grace its stage. Many of the comedy club’s biggest draws find themselves as guests on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” or “Late Night With David Letterman.”
Having cemented his place in stand up comedy history, Dangerfield turned his attention to acting. He had his first movie role in the 1971 film The Projectionist and had a role on the television show “Benny and Barney: Las Vegas Undercover” later in the decade. The acting roles came slowly but in 1980 he landed a role that made him a household name. He starred as the obnoxious real estate developer Al Czervik in the comedy smash Caddy Shack. Suddenly people who didn’t know much about comedians knew all about Rodney Dangerfield.
He followed Caddy Shack with two other 1980’s comedies, Easy Money and Back To School. In 1991, he made the animated movie Rover Dangerfield, the story of a dog that gets no respect. Throughout his career, his line about getting no respect was his trademark.
Dangerfield branched out into a serious role next. He played the abusive father to Juliette Lewis’ character in the controversial film Natural Born Killers. It has been reported that Dangerfield was allowed to write his own lines for the role. This was to be his only serious film role. He followed it with more comedies like Meet Wally Sparks and The Godson. In 2000, the almost 80-year-old comedian starred alongside Adam Sandler in Little Nicky.
His very last acting role was that of God in 2005’s Angels with Angels. It was released posthumously. Dangerfield died on October 5, 2004. He had fallen into a coma after heart surgery and never regained consciousness. His tombstone reflects his comedy. It reads “Rodney Dangerfield – There Goes the Neighborhood.”
His comedy career spanned over 60 years. In addition to all of his stage and screen accomplishments during those years, he also won two awards for his achievements. In 1981 he won a Grammy Award for his comedy recording titled No Respect. In 1995 the American Comedy Awards honored him with a Creative Achievement Award.
One of his lesser-known achievements was that he was the first entertainment personality to have his own website. In 1995 he created Rodney.com, which is still in existence today.
During Rodney Dangerfield’s career he had success on the comedy stage, in film, and on the television. He gave countless other comedians the chance to show their stuff on the stage at his own comedy club. His trademark line, “I don’t get no respect” will forever be associated with the comedian who in spite of his onstage persona was loved and respected by millions of fans.
~Ben Anton, 2007