I had the pleasure of interviewing Rodney Dangerfield two years ago. He was a great guy, a little out of it, but still as funny and nasty as you could hope for.
I met Rodney in his Westwood apartment, where he lounged in a loosely held bathrobe – that night I saw more of Rodney Dangerfield than I expected, a softer, more fleshy, less circumcised side. I also met his wife, who was beautiful, blonde and half his age (placing her somewhere around fifty), but she was surprisingly sharp and impossibly nice.
Rodney was in show business for more than sixty years and worked every gig imaginable, from singing waiter to The Dean Martin Show. He discovered Kinison and Hicks and countless others. In many ways Back to School is to blame for my own sub-par performance in college. And how many times can you wring your collar and declare “No respect” before it gets tired? Never.
What follows are excerpts from the interview or the transcript.
On Overcoming Depression:
“When you’re smart,” Rodney says, “you’ve got no one to talk to. I’ve done everything for it, including forty-eight Austrians, OK? It’s not easy.”
“I have no idea what that means” is the best I can come up with.
“I keep myself dumb, I make plenty of friends that way. It’s easier to get a chick when you’re dumb.”
OK, but thers thers got to be more. Does he take anti-depressants?
What about the alcohol cure?
“No, I hardly touch it. I smoke pot,” he says, “I smoke a lot of pot.”
“Listen man,” he offers, “You can always find a chick with a nice ass. You find a chick who’ll actually listen to you, and you can bring yourself to listen to? That’s what you hold on to. If she has a nice ass too, that’s not so bad either.”
I like Rodney’s advice – it seems honest – but this comes only minutes after he’s said, “I told my wife she’s awful in bed. So she went out and got a second opinion. And then she got a third opinion, and a fourth opinion.”
And the inevitable follow-up, “My wife, she likes to talk during sex. The other night she called me from a motel.”
A: Babylon. Strange town, population never changes. You know? Every time a kid is born some guy leaves town.
Q: Thas a good line.
A: They’re all good. Put these in if you want.
On Lack of Self-Confidence:
A: Are we getting stuck here?
Q: Do you feel like we’re not saying anything?
A: I don’t know. Is it alright? There’s nothing funny here. There’s not too much funny here.
Q: It’s cool.
A: Alright. We’ll do that later, I’ll tell you some jokes later.
On Writing His Autobiography:
Q: Did you actually write it or was it a ghost-writer?
A: No I wrote it.
Q: You did? Was it a pain in the ass?
A: It was a pain. I had such a terrible childhood. What I went through as a kid and I’m constantly as I’m writing it being reminded of it. Especially a friend of mine who just died is in there, Joe Anthony his name was. And so he just died so he was 75. I’m 81 now. So it’s a funny thing when you come to the end of your life. But it’s not that bad.