“I don’t get no respect.” Those five simple words made these heartening Rodney Dangerfield stories possible.
Dangerfield, born Jacob Rodney Cohen, worked as a stand-up comedian and in any show biz job he could find in his late teens through most of his 20s. He found minimal success and ultimately needed to get a job selling aluminum siding to support his family. After several years off-stage, he got the show business bug again. He would sell aluminum siding by day and perform up in the Catskills at night. But still, his career was going nowhere fast and his failure was wrecking his marriage.
Then he had the realization that he needed to construct an on-stage image. At the age of 44, he turned himself into Rodney Dangerfield, the man who gets no respect, the everyman people could completely relate to. His one-liner style of self-deprecating humor catapulted his career and turned him into one of the most successful stand-up comics of the 1960-80s.
What makes Dangerfield’s story so special is that he never let fame and fortune get in the way of being an honest and decent person. He became a mentor to young comics. He opened up a comedy club in New York City to foster talent, even gave a platform to edgy comics like Roseanne Barr and Andrew Dice Clay when they couldn’t find anywhere else to perform.
Dangerfield stayed one of the good guys in a business that often turns people greedy and guarded. Here are just a few of the stories that prove just how much Rodney Dangerfield was beloved and respected by his fans and fellow comics.
- Photo: NBC1
'Saturday Night Live' Paid Tribute To Dangerfield
On October 5, 2004, Rodney Dangerfield passed at the age of 82. There were countless tributes paid to the stand-up comedian. One of the most poignant and hilarious was Saturday Night Live's sketch, which took place four days after Dangerfield's passing.
In the sketch, Darrell Hammond plays Dangerfield and Horatio Sanz is St. Peter. When Dangerfield approaches the Pearly Gates, St. Peter starts to ask him questions about his life:
St. Peter: Can you tell me, uh.. how was your childhood?
Rodney Dangerfield: Oh, I tell ya’, I had a rough childhood, alright? When I was a kid, my parents moved a lot – but I always found ’em. I’ll tell ya’, I got no respect as a kid. I worked in a pet store; people kept asking how big I would get!
St. Peter: Did you have any pets?
Rodney Dangerfield: I had a dog. Apparently, his favorite bone was in my arm!
St. Peter: How was your luck with the ladies?
Rodney Dangerfield: I had no luck with women, alright? I went to my doctor; you know my doctor – Dr. Bid a Boom Ba. Yeah, I told him I think my wife has VD, he gave himself a penicillin shot!
St. Peter: Were you married?
Rodney Dangerfield: Yeah, but I haven’t spoken to my wife in years – I didn’t want to interrupt her!
St. Peter: Was she a good cook?
Rodney Dangerfield: She can’t cook! She’s the worst cook in the world, alright? The other night, she fixed alphabet soup – it spelled out 'Help!' Are you kidding? What a lousy cook! I mean, how can toast have bones?
St. Peter: Was your wife an intelligent woman?
Rodney Dangerfield: Are you kidding? My wife’s not smart, you know? She used to reach inside her bra to count to two.
St. Peter: Rodney, how was your sex life?
Rodney Dangerfield: I got no sex life! The only time my wife makes love to me, there’s always a reason for it! Now, one night she used me to time an egg. I’ll tell ya’, that’s the story of my life – I get no respect! I get no respect at all, alright? So, whattaya say, St. Peter, do I get in or what?
St. Peter: Of course, you do.
Rodney Dangerfield: Then, what’s with all the questions?
St. Peter: [ solemnly ] I just wanted to hear those jokes one more time.
Rodney Dangerfield: Finally! A little respect!
St. Peter: Come on in.
Dangerfield walks through the Pearly Gates. The sketch ends with:
"We’ll miss you. Rodney Dangerfield 1921-2004."Respect worthy?
He Stood By Jim Carrey As His Opening Act Even When No One Laughed At The ‘Weird’ Routine
Jim Carrey's first big American comedy gig came as the opener for Dangerfield at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and as an opener on Dangerfield's comedy tour. At the time, Carrey was a master impressionist, but he wanted to switch up his routine, drop the impressions, and just be himself on stage.
At first, his act totally bombed. In the foreword to Dangerfield's 2004 memoir, Carrey wrote about how Dangerfield's laugh and support gave him confidence to keep going.
One day, though, I decided to change my act - I wanted to stop doing my impressions and start being myself onstage. Well, things got pretty weird for a while after that. And by 'weird' I mean that I was bombing night after night. But I stuck with it, mainly because I could always hear Rodney laughing in the wings. After a show, he'd say to me, 'Man, those people were lookin' at you like you were from another planet!' But I was making him laugh, so I knew I was onto something. A lot of comedians even a star as big as Rodney Dangerfield, would have dumped an opening act that wasn't making his audience laugh, but Rodney stood by me, told me to keep on doing what I was doing.Respect worthy?
Dangerfield's Comedy Club Gave Young Comics A Chance To Perform
In 1969, Dangerfield and his friend Anthony Bevacqua opened up Dangerfield's Comedy Club in New York City. The club allowed Rodney to work on his material in front of a crowd without having to hit the road, but it also offered young comedians an opportunity to perform.
Stand-ups like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, and Jeff Foxworthy got a chance to perform at Dangerfield's when they were starting out. Ray Romano said that when he was first getting his stand-up feet wet, Dangerfield's was the only place where he could get on stage. And not only that, Dangerfield's paid the comics well, more than any other club in the city.
Dangerfield's is still open today. Bevacqua continues to run the club.Respect worthy?
- Photo: Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh / Netflix4
Rodney Dangerfield Gets Respect From Some Of The Best Comedians In The World
Many of the greatest modern day stand-ups grew up admiring Dangerfield. Following his passing, a host of comics talked about their love for Rodney on a personal and professional level.
[The affection felt for Dangerfield] when you saw him on TV or in the movies was doubled when you had the pleasure to meet him...He was a hero who lived up to the hype.
He would find a place for you if he enjoyed what you did and believed in you. And that was rare. It just shows how generous he was. Most comics are threatened by other funny people.
He cared about stand-up more than anyone in the history of stand-up.
Rodney Dangerfield made the world laugh, and laugh deeply because he was just so funny. Funny as a writer, funny as an actor, funny as a comedian, and funny as a man.
He was our Godfather. I never saw a guy who was so non-threatened that he would just help people.Respect worthy?