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Humorist David Rakoff has died

August 10, 2012|by Carolyn Kellogg
  • David Rakoff starred in and helped adapt the screenplay for the 2008 short "The New Tenants."
David Rakoff starred in and helped adapt the screenplay for the 2008 short… (Park Pictures )

Humorist David Rakoff has died from cancer at age 47. The news was posted on Facebook by family members and reported by Third Beat, Slate, the Awl and elsewhere.

Rakoff was a longtime contributor to the radio show "This American Life" and the author of three books: "Fraud," "Don't Get Too Comfortable" and "Half Empty." Published in 2010, "Half Empty" won Rakoff the 2011 James Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Rakoff, a native Canadian, made his home in New York. He traveled for his writing and, in "Half Empty," wrote about visiting Hollywood. Here's an excerpt:

"When I first got here, I found the breadth of the names of those enshrined in the Walk of Fame unutterably depressing, with its embarrassment of people who are all but unrecognizable. Every step was a cruel reminder of the heartlessness of time and tide. For every Heddy Lamarr to make you recall what a brilliant, patent-holding beauty she was, there is a Barbara La Marr to keep you cognizant that someday you, too, will be dead and the subject of a great, cosmic shrugging 'Who?'... But as the days pass and I spend more and more time with the pavement, I revise my opinion."

According to Choire Sicha at the Awl, Rakoff "died after a phenomenally unfair and incredibly prolonged series of medical travails, which rarely slowed his creative output or his deeply human black humor. In early 2009, a pinched nerve was discovered to be a malignant sarcoma, caused, he said, by the radiation treatments from the lymphoma he'd had two decades before."

Rakoff also appeared on camera, in the film "Capote," on "The Daily Show," in the short film "The New Tenants," and giving his hysterical (and occasionally profane) take on Utah in this video for the anthology "State by State."

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