After finishing the most recent book from my reading list, I was in search of something different to change gears. I came across this book while browsing recommendations and the cover instantly caught my attention. I vividly remember the legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) and the endless laughs he provided to households across America and abroad. But sadly, I knew very little of his personal life. I have heard that there is a dark side to comedy and behind the jokes there is often trauma and tragedy. I was not sure what to expect when I started this book but before it was over, I realized I did not want it to end. Dangerfield died on October 5, 2004, but the book was published after his death. His life was a roller coaster ride and anyone who remembers him will enjoy the book. The story is a mixed bag with the good, the bad and the ugly. But it is also full of laughs and moments of reflection by a man in his senior years aware that Father Time comes for everyone.
Dangerfield’s early life was not pleasant as he explains in the book. Born Jacob Cohen in Deer Park, New York, his parents could not have known their son would become one of the most popular comics in America. But as readers will learn, they had their own issues and young Jacob was not afforded the luxury of a “childhood” as one would expect. In fact, the story is surreal, and the level of dysfunction is shocking. As he matures, he finds his calling in comedy but did not instantly become a hit. Further, if fate had not intervened, the world may have never known Rodney Dangerfield. However, everything happens for a reason and his rise to fame is nothing short of inspiring. And as the title says, there was plenty of sex and drugs along the way, plus two wives and two children. The comic opens up about his family’s struggles and reveals the challenges that come with fame.
Throughout the book readers will find the comic’s jokes strategically placed as one chapter ends and begins. The snippets are hilarious and I had to restrain myself heavily while riding the subway. But I am sure that other passengers noticed the constant grinning as I read Dangerfield’s words. The material is edgy and gave me a sense of gloom when I realized that a comedian like Dangerfield could not perform his routine today without risk of heavy censorship. Times have changed significantly. As he revisits the past, he also tells stories regarding other comedians who struggled early in their careers before catching their big breaks. It is astonishing how influential Dangerfield was to scores of aspiring comics. Seasoned readers will recognize the names in the book but for younger readers, YouTube will provide a source of archival footage for the names mentioned. Personally, I had a ball reading this book and laughed out loud when possible.
Early in the book, Dangerfield explains that he is at the age of eighty-two and aware that time is short. Towards the end of the book, he discusses the health struggles he endured and recovered from. His health was an issue on more than one occasion as he explains but he kept pushing forward and would have lived forever if possible. I surmise that with this book and the memories he left behind, he will live forever. And for a man who claimed to never get any respect in his routine on stage, he commands it here. If you need a good laugh, you will not be disappointed with this book.
ASIN : B002JB3EBK