Rodney Dangerfield Dead at Age 82

ByABC News
October 8, 2004, 9:20 AM

Oct. 5, 2004 — --

He was born Jacob Cohen on Nov. 22, 1921, in Babylon, N.Y. He began writing jokes as a teenager. Under the stage name Jack Roy, he went on the road with his stand-up act, even doing a stint as a singing waiter. Nothing took, and finally he moved to New Jersey and became an aluminum siding salesman.

But he decided to give comedy another try, under a new name. And when he was about 40, the renamed Rodney Dangerfield hit upon the "no-respect" line and struck gold.

It was that idea of being the guy denied even the smallest dignity that caught on.

His one-line classics include: "My wife was afraid of the dark, saw me naked and now she's afraid of the light."

Dangerfield became a hit on the stand-up circuit in the 1960s. Ed Sullivan gave him his big break on television, and later appearances on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live gave him a national audience.

Movie roles followed. In the 1980 hit Caddyshack, Dangerfield guaranteed his place in American comedy with his role as Al Czervik, an obnoxious rich golfer.

Dangerfield often played different versions of the same character, and audiences loved it. In 1983's Easy Money, he was a big hit as a working-class guy who suddenly becomes a millionaire. His 1986 film Back to School was one of the first comedies to earn more than $100 million.