Among the Grammy Awards’ 70-plus categories, the winner of the best comedy album is seen only on the awards ceremony’s pre-telecast. But the Grammy Museum is finally putting the spotlight on comedy, beginning with an exhibit on the life and career of no-respect-can’t-catch-a-break comic Rodney Dangerfield, which is part of the museum's inaugural Comedy Month in November, and will include programs with Grammy-winner Kathy Griffin and Richard Lewis.
“The Comedic Genius of Rodney Dangerfield,” which runs from Nov. 2 to February 2015, is co-curated by the museum and Rodney’s widow, Joan Dangerfield, featuring photographs, costumes, film props, awards, hand-written jokes and video footage. “It’s been six years in the making,” says museum associate curator Nwaka Onwusa. “The idea is to have this be a permanent theme that’s included in the exhibitions.”
Among the pieces on loan from Dangerfield’s personal collection of more than 500 items is the comedian’s first press kit from 1968 (the year after he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show), which includes a head shot and review from Variety.
“For Rodney, things didn’t happen overnight,” Joan Dangerfield tells L.A. Weekly. “He had been trying to make it in show business for nearly 30 years when William Morris signed him. He was 47 at the time and would continue entertaining audiences for another 36 years.”
Also a rarity is Dangerfield’s ‘70s TV ad for Naval Jelly Rust Dissolver (because “Naval Jelly Has No Respect for Rust.”)
Other highlights displayed are the black suit and red tie Dangerfield wore during every one of his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno — more than 70. Though the 1980, Harold Ramis-directed classic Caddyshack was the comedian's most memorable movie role, the exhibit includes the robe he wore in his next film, 1983's Easy Money.
“That was such a favorite of his,” says Dangerfield. “He was still wearing it around the house 20 years later. Our housekeeper mended it by sewing patches of soft fabric over the worn areas. He never went shopping for clothes. Almost everything he wore was either a gift from someone or part of a movie’s wardrobe.”
Fans can see his 1980 Grammy Award for No Respect (“I looked up my family tree and found out I’m the sap”), in addition to his American Comedy Award presented by Jim Carrey, and Comedy Central Award given by Adam Sandler. (You may have caught Carrey on a recent episode of The Howard Stern Show recounting stories of Dangerfield smoking pot backstage and the time he introduced him to his father.)
The display also mentions Dangerfield’s club in Vegas, the venue for several HBO specials and stomping grounds for then-young comics like Carrey, Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay and Roseanne Bar.
The exhibit’s kick-off event tomorrow includes a celebrity panel with host Michael Bolton, Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett, Louie Anderson and director and former opening act Harry Basil discussing Dangerfield’s influence, as well as video tributes by Jay Leno, Don Rickles, Lily Tomlin and Sandler, who, along with Bolton and Basil, served as a pallbearer at his funeral in 2004. Also in attendance will be the winning baby and parents of the “Rodney Dangerfield Baby Look-Alike Photo Contest” Joan launched this month on Facebook.
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter:
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.