Rodney Dangerfield gets no respect. Not from his wife, his psychiatrist, his parents, even his dog. But underneath Dangerfield’s sweaty laments and self-deprecation is a razor-sharp wit that comedians today could only hope to emulate. His jokes follow a classically vaudevillian one-two punch — with a distinctly Rodney (and often raunchy) twist.
Whether they’re from his legendary stand-up routines, late-night interviews or his memoir It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs, Rodney Dangerfield’s comments on his childhood are bitterly funny.
“I tell ya, my family were always big drinkers. When I was a kid, I was missing. They put my picture on a bottle of Scotch.”
“When I was a kid I got no respect. When my parents got divorced there was a custody fight over me... and no one showed up.”
“In my life I've been through plenty. When I was three years old, my parents got a dog. I was jealous of the dog, so they got rid of me.”
“I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.”
“When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”
“I asked my old man if I could go ice-skating on the lake. He told me, ‘Wait til it gets warmer.’”
“My mom took me to a dog show, and I won!”
Take his wife — please! Rodney Dangerfield has no shortage of remarks about his wife’s low intelligence, lack of cooking ability and constant promiscuity.
“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.”
“I haven't spoken to my wife in years. I didn't want to interrupt her.”
“My wife's a lousy cook. After dinner, I don't brush my teeth. I count them.”
"My wife has to be the worst cook. In my house, we pray after we eat."
“My wife’s not too smart. I told her our kids were spoiled. She said, ‘All kids smell that way.’”
"Once, somebody stole our car. I asked my wife if she saw who it was. She said, 'No, but I did get the license number.'"
"My wife had her driver's test the other day. She got 8 out of 10. The other 2 guys jumped clear."
“I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous, everyone hasn't met me yet.”
“A girl phoned me the other day and said, 'Come on over. There's nobody home.' I went over. Nobody was home.”
“I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.”
“On Halloween, the parents send their kids out looking like me.”
“I have good-looking kids. Thank goodness my wife cheats on me.”
“My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.”
"When I was born, the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father, 'I'm very sorry. We did everything we could. But he pulled through.'"
Master of the paraprosdokian (a sentence with an unexpected ending), Rodney Dangerfield’s jokes often involve a quick set-up and surprise punchline. It’s why they stand alone so well, and why they also stand the test of comedy time.
“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”
“I told my doctor I broke my arm in two places. He told me to keep out of those places.”
“I live in a tough neighborhood. They got a children's zoo. Last week, four kids escaped.”
“My doctor told me to watch my drinking. Now I drink in front of a mirror.”
“Once on my birthday my ol' man gave me a bat. The first day I played with it, it flew away.”
“Marriage … it's not a word, it's a sentence.”
Writing a great joke isn’t just about making funny observations. As Rodney Dangerfield was well aware, you need to subvert expectations to really land a solid bit. For more giggles and laughs, check out: