The humorous and famous Rodney Dangerfield was a stand-up comedian and actor who made the phrase “I get no respect” popular throughout America. Blessed with an infectious charisma, Rodney had an uncanny inertial ability to make the people around him comfortable.
Rodney Dangerfield was born in Babylon, New York on November 22, 1921. He was the youngest of two children and his birth name was Jacob Cohen. He grew up in a Jewish family. His father, Phillip Cohen, was named Phil Roy, and he was part of a comedic juggling act at a variety show and was hardly ever at home.
His father later left the family and his mother, Dorothy Teitelbaum, moved with him and his sister to Queens, New York. There he attended Richmond Hill High School, which he graduated in 1939. Life was not easy, and to help the family he had to sell ice cream and deliver food. When he was confronted with anti-Semitic comments from teachers and peers, he turned to write jokes to cope with his situation.
When he turned 17, he started performing in various nightclubs. He had adopted the stage name Jack Roy, which would later become his official name when he was 19 years old and performed full-time. Over the next few years, despite various gigs, including a resort in upstate New York and other side jobs, he had financial difficulties and earned $300 a week.
Dangerfield quit show business in 1951 after he met the singer Joyce Indig. They married and moved to New Jersey together. Their time together was blessed with two children, Brian and Melanie. Dangerfield put his family’s needs first and became an aluminum salesman. His time away from comedy was turbulent, to say the least, he suffered from depression and his marriage suffered from so much bickering. It deteriorated until the divorce in 1962, but the couple gave the relationship another chance by remarrying in 1963, but after seven years of struggle the marriage ended definitively in 1970.
When he returned to comedy, he feared rejection and later changed his name to Rodney Dangerfield, which was taken over by Jack Benny. During this time he also realized that he needed a personality on stage with whom his audience could identify. Later the slogan “I am not respected” was coined. What many consider his big breakthrough came when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in the early 1970s.
Soon after, he had more appearances on the Dean Martin Show and the Tonight Show. He opened his own comedy club, the Dangerfield’s in Manhattan, and this allowed him to be closer to his children. The club also provided him with a platform to take care of upcoming gigs. Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld were some of the beneficiaries.
Rodney Dangerfield’s Wife and Kids
As mentioned above, Dangerfield was initially married to Joyce Indig and was blessed with two children. The couple divorced twice, finally in 1970, with his son Brian Roy born in 1949 and his daughter Melanie Roy-Friedman. Dangerfield remarried Joan Child in 1993. The couple remained together until his death.
Joan met Rodney when he came to their flower shop in Santa Monica in the early 1980s and they remained close until they married in 1993. She is the guardian of the entire legion of Rodney Dangerfield’s intellectual work and is still working hard to keep his legacy alive. Dangerfield was brought up Jewish, but was never really religious and even declared himself an atheist, a “logical” atheist.
Rodney Dangerfield was only accepted into the circle of comedians in the 40s. Apart from his comedy appearances he also had a career as an actor. His first appearance was The Projectionist in 1971 and he earned roles in other movies like Back To School and Easy Money. If you look at all his achievements in life, you would expect that he would have earned a sufficiently good salary, and he did. His net worth is estimated at $10 million.
Is He Still Alive or Dead?
Unfortunately, the comedy legend is no longer present in his body, although his works are still alive. He died on October 5, 2004, after developing complications after heart valve replacement surgery.