A nutty professor.

Rodney Dangerfield in
Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School.” (Image via IMDb)

This morning, I watched a documentary about comedian, Rodney Dangerfield.

In case you don’t know, I love documentaries. Plus, I love comedy. But I never thought – until this morning – that my love for those things would equate to Rodney Dangerfield.

Hey, it’s not that I didn’t respect the guy, though he probably would have said just that. Really, I just didn’t know a lot about him. But now, having watched Dangerfield’s 82-year-old life unfold before me in the span of two hours, I feel like his proctologist.

In many ways, Dangerfield’s comedic climb was commonplace:

a. Traumatic childhood, which begat…

b. Inward torture, which begat…

c. Search for relief via escapism and validation, which begat…

d. Outward acceptance…and continued internal torment.

“It’s the ciiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiife…”

(Image via We Heart It)
(Image via We Heart It)

Despite this cookie-cutter approach to comedy – and liiiiiiiife – Dangerfield managed to find himself on a 12-year detour that took him from performing standup in nightclubs to selling aluminum siding 9 to 5.

That’s right.

While leaving only a shallow mark on the industry his first go-round, Dangerfield’s initial stab at comedy – a 10-year stint, by the way – left a gaping wound in his wallet. So to mend his bleeding finances and his family’s instability, Dangerfield, who went by “Jack Roy” at the time, forsook his dream and got a ‘real job.’

Damn.

The escapist side of me derided his decision, but my practical side ultimately conceded. After all, I’m doing the same thing: Dreaming all night, working a ‘real job’ all day.

Sigh.

I’ve heard of other artists taking breaks between each line of pain and glory. And I mean, I don’t mind a pause here and there, but 12 years a corporate slave?! That’s an eternity to a not-as-young youngin’ like me. In 12 years, I’ll be 44.

Interestingly enough, Dangerfield was 44 when he reentered the entertainment arena and started to get some Hollywood traction. The narrator of his documentary said that this time, Dangerfield was more mature, more business savvy (one time for selling aluminum siding) and much improved in his craft.

You see, throughout Dangerfield’s decade-plus hiatus, he never stopped writing new material. He never stopped working on old material. He never stopped honing his uniqueness. He never stopped dreaming.

Wow,  I thought, that’s commitment.

And, really, Dangerfield wasn’t even expressly committed. The narrator said that his foray into selling aluminum siding was supposed to be for good–the end all and be all for the man then known as Jack Roy. His continued writing, on the other hand, was more like a compulsive tic, something he couldn’t help but do.

I know the feeling.

Well, as I prepare to hunker down so that I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for my ‘real job’ in the morning, I’ll wait for sleep tonight a little more peaceably—knowing that I’m not where I want to be, but I am where I need to be in order to get to where I’m going.

Thanks for that lesson, Dangerfield. You definitely have my respect.

Copyright © 2014-2016 Stephanie Rochelle Redd. All rights reserved.

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