Rodney Dangerfield was born Jacob Cohen on November 22, 1921 in Babylon, New York. His father was an actor and Rodney hoped to one day pursue the same career.
He was able to get a job writing jokes for stand-up comedians when he was 16 and joined their ranks three years later under the assumed name "Jack Roy". He got married to a woman named Joyce Indig in 1949, but found himself struggling to make ends meet. When he was 28, he decided to give up his plans for show business and sell aluminum siding instead.
When he was in his late thirties, he began to long for the stage once again and began planning things out more. He decided to take the name "Rodney Dangerfield", which was also used by Ricky Nelson on his television show "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet". He also developed a unique set of jokes based on the tagline "I get no respect", with inspiration from 1972's "The Godfather".
After spending a few years on the local comedy circuit, Rodney shot to fame and was making appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show with David Letterman". In 1969, he opened a night club in Manhattan called "Dangerfield's". The club featured stand up acts by many comedians, including "Jim Carrey", "Jerry Seinfeld", and "Sam Kinison".
In 1980, he was given the opportunity to star in the film "Caddyshack" as a wealthy golfer. His wisecracks in the film helped make it a box office hit and gave him a foothold in Hollywood. He continued to be hired for films throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including hits such as "Back to School" and "Natural Born Killers", in which he plays an abusive father.
In 1994, he was selected to receive an American Comedy Award to recognize his lifetime of creative achievement in comedy and films. He was also given a place in the Smithsonian Institution, which has one of his shirts and ties on display. In 1995, he applied for membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but was denied. After commenting on how the president of the organization, Roddy McDowall, had acted in an ape suit and still felt Dangerfield wasn't dignified enough for the organization they changed their minds, but Rodney subsequently refused to join.
On April 8, 2003, Rodney had to undergo brain surgery to improve his blood flow. The operation went successfully and a year later, on August 24, 2004, he underwent heart surgery to replace one of his valves. Unfortunately, he went into a coma for several weeks and died on October 25, 2004 in Los Angeles.
In 2004, Rodney's autobiography "It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs" was released. The book revealed that he resented people believing that his stage personality was what he was really like in person. He also revealed that he had smoked marijuana every day for sixty years of his life.