Rodney Dangerfield used to claim that, all his life, he never got any respect at all. Well, I guess you can call us the exception, because the countless one-liners that the stand-up icon conceived are absolutely nothing short of comedy gold as far as we are concerned. The following are some of our favorite examples of the late comedian’s best and most uproarious jokes that he shared from the stage and in the movies.
"I Was So Poor, My Rich Aunt Died; In The Will, I Owed Her $20"
The key to many of Rodney Dangerfield’s best one-liners is a punchline that exaggerates the situation of the set-up as a complete 180 of the more realistic outcome. Thus, in this bit, instead of receiving an inheritance from a recently deceased relative, she bills him.
"Hey Baby, You Must've Been Something Before Electricity"
Dangerfield’s character, Al Czervik, is responsible for many of the funniest lines from Caddyshack. For instance, the way he greets Judge Smails’ wife is an absolute stroke of brilliance in crafting a comment that aims to subtly compliment and overtly insult a person at the same time.
"My Psychiatrist Told Me I'm Going Crazy. I Said, 'If You Don't Mind, I'd Like A Second Opinion.' He Said, 'All Right. You're Ugly, Too’”
A recurring topic in Dangerfield’s act was his shrink who, in this bit, takes the otherwise valuable characteristic of honesty a step too far with him. To be fair, however, the doctor did give the comic what he asked for when he a requested a “second opinion.”
"I Mean, The High School I Went To, They Asked A Kid To Prove The Law Of Gravity, He Threw The Teacher Out The Window!"
In most of Dangerfield’s movies, his dialogue consists almost entirely of the kind of one-liners you would hear in his stand-up performances. For instance, one of the funniest lines from 1986’s Back to School — which apparently had some influence on Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War — imagines a high school science experiment gone horribly wrong.
"I'll Tell Ya, My Whole Life, All I Know Is Rejection. When I Was A Kid, My Yo-Yo: It Never Came Back"
This is meant to be nothing more than Dangerfield’s clever way of illustrating the feeling that comes from being rejected. However, we cannot help but imagine that this bit hits close to home for some children who never learned how to toss a yo-yo properly.
"Yeah, Well You Were The Inspiration For Twin Beds!"
Rodney Dangerfield’s first leading cinematic role was in one of the funniest comedies about money, 1983’s Easy Money (which he also co-wrote), in which his character, Monty Capuletti, must give up his vices in order to inherit a grand fortune from his mother-in-law. Speaking of, when she comes to visit and spews an overly critical tirade against his behaviors, he follows with an insult that puts all of hers to bed.
"Last Week, I Told My Kid, 'Be Honest. Always Be Honest.’ He Said, ‘All Right. I'm Not Your Kid'"
This quip could be interpreted one of two ways. On one hand, it would normally be devastating for a child to discover their father is not their real parent. On the other, Dangerfield’s son could just be making something up to avoid the obligation of being honest.
"Good Teacher. He Really Seems To Care. About What, I Have No Idea"
One of the classes taken by Dangerfield’s Back to School character, Thornton Melon — who also throws a really cool party at Grand Lakes University — is Contemporary American History, taught by Professor Turgeson (Sam Kinison), who takes his job a little too seriously by Thornton’s observation. His quip over his teacher’s overzealousness follows an epic verbal standoff regarding the Vietnam War between two of comedy’s most celebrated icons.
"I Know How To Make A Girl Say, 'Yes.' I Ask Her, 'Am I Bothering You?'"
When you really think about it, this quip could serve as some of the best advice for talking to women that a man could receive.
"My Wife Can't Do Nothin' Right. She Can't Cook... I Mean, How Can Toast Have Bones?"
Dangerfield’s spouse took the brunt of many one-liners that specifically targeted her culinary skills. This one suggesting that animal remains could be found in the toasted bread that she serves is easily among the more uproarious.
"The Last Time I Saw A Mouth Like That, It Had A Hook In It"
What makes Caddyshack one of the all-time greatest movies about golf does not necessarily have anything to do with its depiction of said sport. However, its lasting legacy has a lot to do with brilliant, yet simple, one-liners such as this one, courtesy of Rodney Dangerfield as the lovably obnoxious Al Czervik.
"I'll Tell Ya, My Kid: He Drives Me Nuts. For Three Years Now, He Goes To A Private School. He Won't Tell Me Where It Is!"
At first, it almost sounds like Rodney’s grievance here is that his child’s private school costs him too much. To learn that the school’s “private” state really refers to the comic’s ability to find it is an inspired twist.
"Last Week, I Looked Up My Family Tree. Two Dogs Were Using It!"
It would be quite to disappointing if one’s biological lineage could be manifested into an actual plant that a canine ended up marking their territory on. Fittingly, Dangerfield would reuse this bit in the animated film, Rover Dangerfield, in which he voices his own furry alter ego.
"Siskel And Ebert Caught My Show. They Gave Me One Finger Up"
In 1997’s Meet Wally Sparks, Rodney Dangerfield plays a tabloid reporter searching for a scoop that could attract more viewers to his TV show, which he jokes is not a favorite of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Considering we could not find a review from the famed film critics, it might be safe to assume that they did not bother with this comedy in real life.
"This Kid Imitates Everything. That's Why We Got Rid Of The Dog"
Some of Rodney Dangerfield’s best one-liners detail trouble with his children, while others involve his pet. This joke combines the two in a manner that forces you conjure some unsettling imagery.
"My Wife Cracked Up The Car Again... She Told Me She Would Make A U-Turn. I'll Tell Ya, The Letter She Made You'll Never Find In The Alphabet"
We imagine there are people out there who can empathize with Dangerfield’s wife in this bit. In some situations, making a U-turn is not as easy as it is made out to be.
"Oh, We Were Doomed From The Start. I'm An Earth Sign. She's A Water Sign. Together, We Made Mud"
In Back to School, Thornton falls in love with his English professor, Dr. Diane Turner (Diane Turner), and later takes her to dinner. During the meal, he discusses with her his past troubles with romance in Dangerfield’s signature comedic style.
"My Doctor, He Don't Help Either. He Told Me To Run Five Miles A Day For Two Weeks. I Called Him Up. I Said, 'Doc, I'm 70 Miles From My House'"
A recurring character in Dangerfield’s act was his bumbling doctor, Vinnie Boombatz (who was once portrayed by Andy Kaufman in a 1983 TV special called I Can’t Take It No More). However, in some cases, it is Rodney’s misunderstanding of the doc’s orders that ends up causing the comic trouble, such as in this joke.
“Hey, I'm Smart. When I Was Paper Trained I Learned How To Read It, Too"
We should have known that it was only a matter of time before the comedian decided to put himself in the shoes (or paws, we should say) of the dogs he included in many of his jokes. He voiced the title role of 1991’s Rover Dangerfield (which he also wrote), who claims to be a pooch of many talents, as seen here.
"I Know I'm Ugly. I Stuck My Head Out The Window, Got Arrested For Mooning"
We have a lot of respect for comics who incorporate a self-effacing brand of humor into their act and few poked fun at themselves harder than Rodney Dangerfield. The man targeted his looks quite a few times on stage, but his example — in which he compares the appearance of his face to his rear end — is a prime gut-buster.
“I’ll Tell Ya, This Steak Still Has Marks From Where The Jockey Was Hitting It"
Many of Rodney Dangerfield’s best moments in Caddyshack can be found in the same scene: the annual Fourth of July Banquet, at which Al Czervik takes every opportunity to make a joke at someone’s expense. The chef gets the worst of it with multiple jabs at the event’s food, including the steak.
"Last Week, My House Was On Fire. My Wife Told The Kids, 'Be Quiet. You'll Wake Up Daddy’”
You would assume Dangerfield had a terrible home life if you took all of his jokes about his family as factual. This stand-up bit, suggesting that the comedian’s wife planned to murder him by burning their home down, is one of his best self-effacing roasts related to the topic.
"I Think I'm Attracted To Teachers. Yeah, I Took Out An English Teacher. That Didn't Work Out At All. I Sent Her A Love Letter... She Corrected It!"
When Thornton falls for Dr. Diane Turner in Back to School, he reveals this is not the first time some in the educational field taught him a lesson about love. We imagine that anyone who has made a living out of teaching grammar would have a hard time not pointing out flaws in even the sweetest messages from a romantic suitor.
"Oh, This Is The Worst-Looking Hat I Ever Saw. What, When You Buy A Hat Like This, I Bet You Get A Free Bowl Of Soup, Huh?"
The average person would not call someone like Al Czervik from Caddyshack the best judge of fashion sense, but he seems to have some pretty strong opinions about headwear — in particular a rainbow-striped fedora he finds at the golf shop. Little does he realize, as he voices his brutal opinion of it, that the exact same hat is being worn just a few feet away by Judge Smails (Ted Knight), to whom he sarcastically assures that he pulls it off just fine.
"My Wedding Day, That Was A Beauty. I Went To Put The Ring On. She Gave Me The Wrong Finger"
Traditionally, a bride or groom’s wedding ring is placed by the other onto the third finger from their thumb on their left hand. Yet, it seems that Dangerfield’s spouse held out another finger indicating that she did not want to accept the ring in the first place. What tough luck, huh?
"One Time I Saw Him, He Gave Me Sleeping Pills. He Told Me To Take Them Whenever I Wake Up"
From the way Dangerfield illustrates his relationship with his doctor, Vinnie Boombatz, it is hard to tell if the physician is simply absent-minded, or if he really has it out for his patient. This stand-up bit seems to suggest the latter.
"Fore!... I Should Have Yelled, 'Two!'"
Al Czervik manages to be just a mere annoyance to Judge Smails throughout one of the best movies of the 1980s, Caddyshack, save the moment he actually causes him physical pain. The businessman does not call out “Fore!” soon enough for Smails to stop his golfball from hitting him right in the crotch — prompting Czervik’s clever put down.
"The Football Team At My High School, They Were Tough. After They Sacked The Quarterback, They Went After His Family"
Even in high school, it certainly pays to have a football team that is not afraid to get rough to secure a win. However, in Back to School, the team from Thornton Melon’s old school — much like many of the characters in Dangerfield’s stand-up jokes — took things a little too far by his account.
"I Was Poor. Once On My Birthday, My Old Man, He Showed Me A Picture Of A Cake. I Sat There All Day Trying To Blow Out The Candles"
Dangerfield’s economic status while growing up also comes up a number of times in his stand-up. One classic example is when his father could only afford a cake that young Rodney could only look at, but boy did he try to make a wish on it, anyway.
"I Tell Ya, The Way I See It, You Probably Won't Be Around After Christmas"
The titular dog from Rover Dangerfield cannot help but tell things like they are when speaking to a turkey from the rural farm he finds himself living on. At least he has the courtesy to predict that his fowl friend will make it past Thanksgiving.
"My Old Man, He Saw A Sign That Said, 'Drink Canada Dry.' He Went Up There"
In one of his last appearances on The Tonight Show, Rodney Dangerfield riffed on a bunch of topics with then-host Jay Leno, including his father’s vices. According to this one-liner, the “old man’s” attachment to the bottle was so strong, he mistook a ginger ale ad for a challenge.
"I Got A Dog. He Tries To Run The Whole House. The Other Night He Started Trouble. He Went Over To The Front Door, He Started To Bark. I Went Over, I Opened The Front Door. The Dog Don't Wanna Go Out. He Wanted Me To Leave"
They say that a dog is man’s best friend, but this man’s pet asserts himself as more of a foe in this stand-up bit. The furball does not even bother trying to hide his animosity toward his owner here.
Until his passing in 2004 at the age of 82, Rodney Dangerfield kept the laughs coming with a constant stream of winning one-liners like these.