Jacob Cohen was born on November 22, 1921, in Babylon, New York, the younger of two children. His father abandoned the family shortly after Jacob’s birth, leaving his mother to raise her children alone. To help the family scrape by, Jacob began selling ice cream on the beach and delivering groceries after school.
Jacob struggled through a difficult childhood. He was frequently the focus of torment from anti-Semitic teachers, and more affluent students. To cope, he began writing jokes and, at 17, he started performing his act at amateur nights in various clubs. By the age of 19, Jacob was performing his act full-time under the stage name Jack Roy, which he later made his legal name.
Jacob landed his first big gig telling jokes at a resort in upstate New York, where he performed for ten weeks. He earned $12 a week, plus room and board. Though he continued to land jobs at various comedy clubs, he would also drive delivery trucks and work as a singing waiter to make extra money. Despite bringing in as much as $300 a week, comedy didn’t pay well enough, and Jacob struggled financially. In 1951, after meeting singer Joyce Indig, he decided to give up show business. He and Indig married, moved to New Jersey, and had two children. To provide for his new family, Jacob became an aluminum siding salesman.
Jacob continued to write jokes for the next decade, even as he was gripped by clinical depression. His marriage also deteriorated and, by 1962, the couple finally divorced. They remarried again in 1963, but after years of struggle the relationship dissolved permanently in 1970.
Despite his troubled personal life, Jacob continued to feel drawn to comedy. In the early 1960s, he started working toward rehabilitating his career, still working as a salesman by day but doing stand-up at night. Afraid of more rejection, he began performing under the pseudonym Rodney Dangerfield, a reference to a joke by early comedian Jack Benny. Now you know the rest of the story…
What does this Paul Harvey-ish story of Rodney Dangerfield have to do with Tama County? Based upon recent political decisions I feel like we are the county in the state that like Rodney “gets no respect”.
We land Sysco (the Sysco that is larger than both FedEx and John Deere) investing in Iowa Premium Beef that brings 1,100 new jobs (515 as of today) and what do we get?
A rejection from Iowa Economic development Authority on a $3 million Community Development Block Grant for much needed housing. Along with Iowa Department of Transportation’s board decision to “fast-track” $220M to finish Highway 20 – leaving Highway 30 out in the cold until 2025.
Like Dangerfield, if we don’t turn to laughter in these times of frustration we could fall into a depressed state. So I’ll leave you with one last Dangerfield classic “I get no respect I tell ya, my psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you’re ugly too.”