He may have lived a lifetime getting no respect, but funny man Rodney Dangerfield did enjoy great success as one of the world’s most loved and imitated comedians. His autobiography, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs reveals the real man behind the laughter and the jokes, a man who suffered deeply on the inside but always kept laughing, and kept US laughing, on the outside.
Dangerfield, who passed away in October 2004 from complications of heart-valve replacement surgery, wrote the book at the ripe old age of eighty-two, and the dialogue is rampant with his very direct, bawdy and streetwise style. In other words, he swears a lot and can get pretty crude, but this is his story and it is one that starts off, sadly, with an absent entertainer father and a neglectful and crazy mother. In short, Dangerfield never had a chance to have a normal childhood, his only outlet being what little approval he could seek on the outside, past the walls of his noisy and confusing homelife.
What he discovered was his ability to make others laugh, and he hit the stage right out of high school, hoping that comedy would bring the salvation, love and acceptance his family life never provided. The book chronicles his struggles to find fame and fortune in nightclubs, which ended abruptly at the age of twenty-eight, when Dangerfield gave up show biz forever. But the comedy bug would not give up on him, and he ended up diving back in with a new persona, a new act, and a new determination to make it work.
The result is the career we all know and love, including a long history of stand-up comedy touring, highly successful movie roles such as “Caddyshack,” “Back to School,” and “Easy Money,” and plenty of appearances on Johnny Carson and other variety shows, as well as big HBO performances and Vegas, oh yes, Vegas. He lived next door to Flip Wilson, admired Andy Kaufman, wishes he was Howard Stern, loves Jerry Springer’s show, and jokes about his health even as his body is giving him plenty of warning signs. We also learn about his battles with drugs, women and big business players and his never-ending attempts to reconcile his past with his success.
Throughout this highly entertaining and energetic read, there are black-and-white photos of Rodney and many of his famous colleagues and friends, including Jim Carrey, Elvis and Bill Gates. And there are plenty of his best jokes peppered throughout the book, providing a constant flow of comic relief to a story that occasionally borders on tragic.
Always the funny man, Dangerfield with this enlightening book makes you realize that behind all the hilarious two-liners and jokes, behind all the shtick and comedy, was a man who had suffered and only wanted to be loved and accepted. He died a huge success, something even his rotten parents couldn’t take away from him - yet, somehow, we still get the feeling he would have rather had their approval, or at least their respect. Instead, he got the respect of millions, who will miss his comedic flair dearly.