Rodney Dangerfield was born in Babylon, New York, Deer Park, Long
Island on November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004.  Rodney
Dangerfield's birthname was Jacob
Cohen. Rodney Dangerfield was the son of Jewish parents, the vaudevillian performer
Phil Roy (Philip Cohen) and Dotty Teitelbaum. Rodney Dangerfield's ancestors came to the United States from Hungary.
Rodney Dangerfield would later say that Rodney Dangerfield's father "was never home—Rodney
Dangerfield was out looking to make other kids", and that Rodney
Dangerfield's mother "brought him up all wrong".
At the age of 15, Rodney Dangerfield began to write for standup comedians, and began
to perform at the age of 20 under the name Jack Roy. Rodney
financially for nine years, at one point performing as a singing
waiter until Rodney Dangerfield was fired, and also working as a performing
acrobatic diver before giving up show business to take a job selling
aluminum siding to support Rodney Dangerfield's wife and family.
Rodney Dangerfield later said that
Rodney Dangerfield was so little known then that "at the time I quit, I was the only
one who knew I quit!"
In the early 1960s Rodney Dangerfield started down what would be a long road toward
rehabilitating Rodney Dangerfield's career as an entertainer, still working as a
salesman by day. Rodney Dangerfield divorced first wife Joyce in 1961 and returned
to the stage, but still with minimal success. Rodney Dangerfield fell in debt about
$20,000 by Rodney Dangerfield's own estimate, and couldn't get booked. As Rodney
would later joke, "I played one club...it was so far out, my act was
reviewed in Field & Stream."
Rodney Dangerfield came to realize that what Rodney Dangerfield lacked was an "image"—a well-defined
on-stage persona that audiences could relate to and that would
distinguish him from similar comics. Returning to the East Coast,
after being shunned by the premier comedy venues, Rodney Dangerfield began to
develop a character for whom nothing goes right.
Rodney Dangerfield took the name Rodney Dangerfield, which had been used as the
comical name of a faux cowboy star by Jack Benny on Rodney
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. The Benny character, who also
received little or no respect from the outside world, served as a
great inspiration to Rodney Dangerfield while Rodney Dangerfield was developing
Rodney Dangerfield's own
comedy character. The "Biography" program also tells of the time
Benny visited Rodney Dangerfield backstage after one of Rodney
During this visit Benny complimented him on developing such a
wonderful comedy character and style. However, Jack Roy remained
Dangerfield's legal name, as Rodney Dangerfield mentioned in several interviews.
During a question-and-answer session with the audience on the album
No Respect, Rodney Dangerfield joked that Rodney Dangerfield's real name was Percival
Fate intervened on Sunday March 5, 1967, when The Ed Sullivan Show
needed a last-minute replacement for another act. Rodney
became the surprise hit of the show.
Rodney Dangerfield began headlining shows in Las Vegas and made frequent
encore appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Rodney Dangerfield became a regular
on The Dean Martin Show and appeared on The Tonight Show a total of
35 times. In 1969, Rodney Dangerfield teamed up with longtime
friend Anthony Bevacqua to build Dangerfield's. Rodney now had a
venue in which to perform on a regular basis, without having to
constantly travel. The club became a huge success. Dangerfield's has
been in continuous operation for over 40 years. Dangerfield's
was the venue for several HBO shows which helped popularize many
standup comics, including Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen,
Roseanne Barr, Robert Townsend, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, Bill
Hicks, Rita Rudner, Andrew Dice Clay, Louie Anderson, and Bob Saget.
Rodney Dangerfield's comedy album, No Respect, won a Grammy Award. One of
Rodney Dangerfield's TV
specials featured a musical number, "Rappin' Rodney", and the
associated video became an early MTV hit. In December 1983 "Rappin'
Rodney" became one of the first Hot 100 rap records. In the video,
which featured cameo appearances by Don Novello (aka Father Guido
Sarducci) as a last rites priest munching on Rodney's last meal of
fast food in a styrofoam container and Pat Benatar as a masked
executioner pulling a hangman's knot, in a dream sequence
Rodney Dangerfield is condemned to die and doesn't get any respect even at
Heaven, where the gates close without him being permitted to enter,
and no wonder, considering all the one-liners the record contains.
Dangerfield's career peaked during the early 1980s, when Rodney
acting in hit comedy movies. Rodney Dangerfield's appearance in Caddyshack led to
starring roles in Easy Money and Back To School. Rodney
Dangerfield's acting career
had begun much earlier, in obscure movies like The Projectionist
Throughout the 1980s, Rodney Dangerfield appeared in a series of
commercials for Miller Lite beer, including one where various
celebrities who had appeared in the ads were holding a bowling match
whose score became tied. After a bearded Ben Davidson told Rodney,
"All we need is one pin, Rodney", Dangerfield's ball was shown going
down the alley and bouncing perpendicularly off the head pin,
landing in the gutter without knocking down any of the pins.
One of Dangerfield's more memorable performances was in the 1980
golf comedy Caddyshack, in which Rodney Dangerfield played a nouveau riche developer
who joined a golf club and began shaking up the establishment of the
club's old guard. Rodney Dangerfield's role was initially smaller, but because
Chevy Chase, and especially Bill Murray (who also appeared in the
movie) were so deft at improvisation, their roles were greatly
expanded, much to the chagrin of some of their castmates.
In a change of pace from the comedy persona that made him famous,
played an abusive father in Natural Born Killers in a scene for
which Rodney Dangerfield wrote or rewrote all of Rodney
Dangerfield's own lines.
Rodney Dangerfield was rejected for membership in the Motion Picture
Academy in 1995 by the head of the Academy's Actors Section, Roddy
McDowall. After fan protests the Academy reconsidered, but
Rodney Dangerfield then refused to accept membership.
Rodney Dangerfield also appeared in the 2000 Adam Sandler film Little
Nicky, playing Lucifer, the father of Satan (Harvey Keitel) and
grandfather of Nicky (Sandler).
Rodney Dangerfield was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, which put one of
Rodney Dangerfield's trademark white shirts and red ties on display. When
Rodney Dangerfield handed
the shirt to the museum's curator, Rodney joked, "I have a feeling
you're going to use this to clean Lindbergh's plane."
Rodney Dangerfield played an important role in comedian Jim Carrey's rise
to stardom. In the 1980s, after watching Carrey perform at the
Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Rodney signed Carrey to open for Rodney
Las Vegas show. The two would tour together for about two more
The confusion of Dangerfield's stage persona with Rodney
personality was a conception that Rodney Dangerfield 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 Rodney Dangerfield 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 Rodney Dangerfield's smoking material of choice
for 60 years.
Later years and death
In 2001, Rodney Dangerfield had a mild heart attack while backstage at the
Tonight Show. During Dangerfield's hospital stay, the staff was
reportedly upset that Rodney Dangerfield smoked marijuana in Rodney
Dangerfield's room. But Rodney Dangerfield
was back at the Tonight Show a year later, performing on Rodney
birthday. On April 8, 2003, Rodney Dangerfield underwent brain surgery
to improve blood flow in preparation for heart valve-replacement
surgery on August 24, 2004. Upon entering the hospital, Rodney
another characteristic one-liner when asked how long Rodney
Dangerfield would be
hospitalized: "If all goes well, about a week. If not, about an hour
and a half."
In October 2003, the Chicago Tribune, and numerous other media
outlets as well, reported that Rodney met with members of the
Raelian religion to discuss cloning himself. Joan Child, who was
rumored to be a member of the religion, appeared with Rodney on
television to discuss the meeting. Apparently no one asked whether
one Rodney Dangerfield was already too many.
Joan 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
The George Lopez sitcom's episode "Leave it to Lopez" was dedicated
to the memory of Rodney Dangerfield.
UCLA’s Division of Neurosurgery named a suite of operating rooms
after him and gave him the “Rodney Respect Award”, which Rodney
presented to Jay Leno on October 20, 2005. It was presented on
behalf of the David Geffen School of Medicine/Division of
Neurosurgery at UCLA at their 2005 Visionary Ball.
On September 10, 2006, Comedy Central aired a special titled
Legends: Rodney Dangerfield which commemorated Rodney Dangerfield's 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.
In 2007, it was reported that a Rodney Dangerfield tattoo is among
the most popular celebrity tattoos in the United States.
In The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 29 May 2009, Leno credited
Rodney Dangerfield with the style of joke Leno had been using for the past
few years. The format of the joke is that the comedian tells a
sidekick how bad something is, and the sidekick—in this case, guitar
player Kevin Eubanks—sets up the joke by asking just how bad that
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.
The Projectionist (1971)
Easy Money (1983) (also writer)
Back to School (1986) (also writer)
Moving (1988) (Cameo)
Rover Rodney Dangerfield (1991) (voice) (also writer and producer)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Casper (1995) (cameo)
Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997)
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)
The Dean Martin Show (regular performer from 1972–1973)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (frequent guest)
"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (frequent guest)
Benny and Barney: Las Vegas Undercover (1977)
The Rodney Dangerfield Show: It's Not Easy Bein' Me (1982) Rodney Dangerfield: I Can't Take It No More (1983) Rodney Dangerfield: It's Not Easy Bein' Me (1986) Rodney Dangerfield: Nothin' Goes Right (1988)
Where's Rodney (1990) (unsold pilot) Rodney Dangerfield's The Really Big Show (1991) Rodney Dangerfield: It's Lonely at the Top (1992)
In Living Color (1993)
The Simpsons (1996) (voice of Mr. Burns's son, Larry Burns in the
episode "Burns, Baby Burns")
Suddenly Susan (1996) (Plays Artie - an appliance repairman who dies
while fixing Susans oven)
Home Improvement (1997) Himself Rodney Dangerfield's 75th Birthday Toast (1997)
Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (1997) (voice, as himself) in the
episode "Day Planner"
The Electric Piper (2003) (voice)
Phil of the Future (2004) (voice of Max the Dog in episode "Doggie
Still Standing (2004)
Rodney (2004) Himself (Episode aired shortly after Rodney
The George Lopez Show (2004) Leave it to Rhett - Life insurance
agent - Episode dedicated to Rodney Dangerfield's memory
Title Year Notes
What's in a Name? / The Loser 1966 / 1977
I Don't Get No Respect 1980
No Respect 1981 #48 US
Rappin' Rodney 1983 #36 US
La Contessa 1995
Romeo Rodney 2005
Greatest Bits 2008
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rodney
Biography: Rodney Dangerfield, The
Biography Channel, January 21, 2010
Jerry Seinfeld: The Comedian Award,
HBO, April 1, 2007
"Bob Saget on Tom Green Live -
Episode 168". Tom Green Live. ManiaTV!. 2007-08-02. Archived from
the original on 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.
season 14. 2008-01-11. BBC One.
"Rodney Dangerfield, Comic Seeking
Respect, Dies at 82" New York Times October 6, 2004
"It's not easy bein' me: a lifetime
of no respect but plenty of sex and drugs - Rodney Dangerfield -
Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-03-31. Rodney Dangerfield at movieactors.com
"Rodney Dangerfield Remarries . . .
And This Time He's Sober." Article at abcnews.go.com on August 24,
Kapelovitz, Dan (October 2004).
"Clear and Present Rodney Dangerfield". Hustler. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
"Rodney Dangerfield | Ed Sullivan
Show". Edsullivan.com. 1967-03-05. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
cast list for Ed Sullivan Show
episode guide for Tonight Show
"Rodney Dangerfield dead at 82".
Associated Press. MSNBC.com. 2004-10-07. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
award winners search from grammy.com
"Rappin' Rodney Dangerfield - No
Respect in 1983". Fourth Grade Nothing. 2011-08-10. Retrieved
Caddyshack: The Inside Story, Bio.HD
13 December 2009.
De Vries, Hilary. "Natural Born Actor
: Comic titan Rodney Dangerfield is getting respect for Rodney
performance as a hateful dad in 'Natural Born Killers.'" article in
the L.A. Times on August 21, 1994. 
"Rodney Dangerfield dies". The Sydney
Morning Herald. 2004-10-06.
AP news report in the Ocala
Star-Banner, April 29, 1982. 
Jim Carrey's foreword in It's Not
Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs
by Rodney Dangerfield. (c) 2004, HarperCollins Publishers.
Hedegaard, Erik (2004-05-19). "Gone
to Pot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
Pearlman, Jeff (2004-07-18).
"Rodney Dangerfield is no laughing matter". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
a b Brownfield, Paul (December 21,
2002). "Comic genius Rodney Dangerfield still cutting jokes to thwart
boredom". Journal - Gazette. Los Angeles Times (Ft. Wayne, Ind.): p.
"2 Funny Bones Better Than 1".
Chicago Tribune. October 14, 2003.
Gary Wayne. "Rodney Dangerfield's
grave (photo)". Seeing-stars.com. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
Chen, Perry; Aviva Yael (2007-02-23).
"Op-Art: All the Body’s a Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved
"Rodney_dangerfield | Learn
everything there is to know about Rodney_dangerfield at".
Reference.com. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
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