Billboard Winterfest: Check Out Our Full Music Coverage From the Sundance Film Festival!
Dangerfield has been equally successful as a recording artist. His debut album, No Respect, received a Grammy for "best comedy album" in 1980, as did his second album, Rappin' Rodney, in 1983. He appeared as himself in Billy Joel's "Tell Her About It" music video.
Born in Babylon, New York, Dangerfield began writing jokes at the age of 15. Performing at amateur night competitions from the age of 17, he became a singing waiter and comic two years later. Although he performed on the East coast comedy circuit for a decade, he grew increasingly frustrated by his inability to earn money as an entertainer. Leaving show business in the '40s, Dangerfield worked a variety of odd jobs including a stint as an aluminum siding salesman.
The turning point in Dangerfield's career came, shortly after his 40th birthday, when he returned to performing; working in his office during the day and performing at New York clubs at night.
Opening his own nightclub, Dangerfield's, on New York's First Avenue, Dangerfield hosted an HBO comedy show from the club. Among the many comedians that the show introduced to American viewers were Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Jim Carrey, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, Jerry Seinfeld and Rita Rudner. Dangerfield also became a regular performer on television, appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show 16 times and Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, an unprecedented 70 times.
Although he became the first entertainer to have a website in February 1995, the event marked the apex of his career. Admitting to a lifelong bout with depression in 1997, he suffered a mild heart attack, following a six-night stint at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and underwent double bypass heart surgery. While his health slowed him down, Dangerfield remains as durable as ever. He starred in The 4th Tenor, a slightly autobiographical film that premiered in November 2002.
Dangerfield's trademark white shirt and red tie can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi