28 May 2009
If life gives you lemons, Rodney Dangerfield could have said, he was given the whole damn lemon grove. But the comedian, who died in 2004, managed to make some pretty fine lemonade in his life, and in It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs, he laid out his life like he lived it, uncensored and very, very funny.
Weighing in at 263 pages, the memoir pages swiftly through Dangerfield’s life, helped along by plenty of jokes from his standup routine (sample joke, in case you’ve been away for a very, very long time: “My wife is the worst cook in the world. At my house, we pray after we eat.”). His life was anything but funny, raised by a mother who showed him no love, and not raised by a father who, he estimated, spent an average of two hours a year with his son while he was growing up.
What Dang ? heck, let’s call him Rodney, shall we? ? what Rodney had was plenty of moxie and drive. Growing up on the streets of New York, he hustled, delivering groceries, working the soda fountain at a drug store, working as a barker for a theater. Anything to make a dime. He moved into the clubs and worked as a comedian for awhile, gave it up at age 28 and went into the aluminum-siding business.
But show business called him back. He wasn’t performing, but he was still writing jokes. Finally, at 40, he returned to standup comedy and this time succeeded.
Story after story, anecdote after anecdote, Rodney is unsparing in the details about the girls he laid, the people he met, the scams that were sometimes run on his behalf. One time, in Alabama, he performed at a club the same time he worked on several siding jobs for a local businessman who tried stiffing him. Fortunately, one of Rodney’s fans happened to run the biggest bank in town. Rodney got his money.
“It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me” is a candid, funny, heart-felt book. If you’re a fan of Rodney’s it’s worth seeking out.