Comedian Rodney Dangerfield "can't get no respect" the old-fashioned way; he spurns it. At the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, the slings and arrows of outrageous and slightly off-color jokes were all turned inward. Whereas Don Rickles has made a career of insulting others, the hound-faced, bug-eyed Dangerfield insults himself for hours on end, leaving behind a trail of groans, yucks, hoots, chortles and outright gales of laughter.
Rattling off one-liners as though he were getting paid by the joke, Dangerfield carefully catalogued all the folks who trouble his life, including family ("I was so poor, my aunt died and in the will I owed her $20!"), wild girlfriends ("Last week in a bar, she gave the mechanical bull her phone number"), fat girlfriends ("Her bathtub has stretchmarks . . . She went to a plastic surgeon and he added a tail"). Chronic offenders included his own kids, bartenders, psychiatrists and doctors, each apparently trying to top the previous crisis confrontation. Dangerfield seemed to have special problems with sex in general and his wife in particular: "The second time she got pregnant, she thought we had to get married again! . . . I told her I wanted to die in bed, and she said, 'Again?' "
Throughout the show, the audience of 4,500 acted as an amoebic straightman, responding to Dangerfield's familiar throwaway lines ("Boy, is she dumb!") with gleeful demands: "How dumb is she?" or "How tough is it?" or "How ugly were you?" Dangerfield raced through both inane and sublime bits like a solo guitarist, stopping every so often to catch his breath and wipe the sweat from his forehead. You have to feel sorry for a guy who goes into McDonald's only to be told he doesn't deserve a break.