Rodney Dangerfield quit show business when he was 40 years old. He had been working at making a career out of standup comedy and joke writing from the time he made his first appearance at age 19. At age 15 he was writing and selling jokes to other comedians, but 25 years later, he was broke.
WHAT SETS YOU APART?
Was show business cruel or unfair to him? Not according to Rodney, “I was not good enough; I was probably average and very much like a whole bunch of other guys doing the same thing.” Rodney got married that year and his new wife may have helped him with the decision to end his show business career and get a real job. How’s that for no respect? By the time he was 45 he was a well-established aluminum siding salesman. True story, an aluminum siding salesman. He would have been happy with that but, he had something inside of him that would not stop working and perfecting jokes. But according to Rodney, “I had no image, nothing to set me apart from the others.”
But what changed for Rodney? He started searching for his niche, his image, his very own brand.
“When I got back into show business in 1961, I felt — for obvious reasons — that nothing in my life went right, and I realized that millions of people felt the same way. So when I first came back my catch phrase was “nothing goes right.” Early on, that was my setup for a lot of jokes.”
But, it was The Godfather, a movie that came out in 1972 that changed his life and career forever. Rodney coined the phrase, “I don’t get no respect.” “Respect, it seemed like every time the Vito Corleone, the mob boss aka the ‘Godfather’ spoke, he was talking about respect. Don Corleone said, “I said that I would see you because I had heard that you were a serious man, to be treated with respect.” Rodney felt he wasn’t getting any respect; no one was showing him any respect. “I tell you, I just don’t get no respect”.
He put pen to paper and began writing what would become his new image, his brand, his niche and the thousands of jokes he based on that one theme.
- “When I was a kid, I never went to Disneyland. My ol’ man told me Mickey Mouse died in a cancer experiment.”
- “I tell ya, I grew up in a tough neighborhood. The other night a guy pulled a knife on me. I could see it wasn’t a real professional job. There was butter on it. I get no respect”
- “I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.”
RESPECT IN YOUR TRADE IS EARNED
Last night I was watching an old clip of The Johnny Carson Show and Rodney Dangerfield came out. I was amazed, he must have given 50 one liners in a row and it looked entirely unrehearsed. The audience was falling off their chairs with laughter and Johnny was in stitches. I later watched an interview with Rodney and he was asked if the business came easy to him. Johnny’s reply, “Easy he said, just doing one Johnny Carson show, one 8-minute segment takes at least three months of preparation. I will work club after club doing multiple shows testing joke after joke, set after set just to get the perfect 8 minutes. Then that is rehearsed hundreds of times before you ever see me pull it off on Johnny’s show.” If you want respect you gotta earn it.
Preparation for the small life changing events in our life takes years doesn’t it? Work your skills, rehearse them, test them, over and over again until you get them just right. Then take them on the road day after day and let them set you up for life.
Rodney Koop Founder of The New Flat Rate