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Humorist Writer David Rakoff Dead at 47

David Rakoff, the essayist, humorist, and contributor to This American Life, has died at 47 after a battle with cancer, The Atlantic reports:

RakoffRakoff was born in Montreal to Jewish parents who immigrated to Canada from South Africa, according to an essay he wrote for The New York Times Magazine in 1994. He first moved to New York City, the place he would later call "the great love of my life," in 1982 to attend Columbia University. Describing the experience, he wrote, "Like cartoon characters who wander off cliffs but only fall once they realize they have done so, I felt the solid ground disappear from under my feet and my life in New York begin." Upon graduation, he worked briefly in Japan as a translator, but, at 22, he came down with his first bout of cancer—Hodgkins disease. He overcame the illness, which he liked to humorously downplay as "the dilettante cancer."

Before devoting himself to writing fulltime, Rakoff worked in publishing. At this time, he befriended Ira Glass, then a producer at NPR's Morning Edition. When Glass went on to create This American Life, he invited Rakoff to read his deadpan essays on the show. Along with David Sedaris, Rakoff would help establish the show's distinctive voice. Rakoff also began pursuing a career as a prolific freelance journalist for the publications like New York, The New York Times, and Salon. He wrote three books of essays, Fraud, Don't Get Too Comfortable, and Half Empty, and last year, he was awarded the Thurber Prize for Humor.

Watch his last appearance on The Daily Show, AFTER THE JUMP...



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  1. How sad. Always hurts to lose a fine writer. RIP David.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Aug 10, 2012 11:26:52 AM

  2. This is sad, a loss for readers. What a delicious pleasure it was to stumble upon his books in the library. He wrote such wise, off-kilter, wonderful humor.

    Posted by: PixelWizard | Aug 10, 2012 11:39:30 AM

  3. Damn. This is a real loss. I liked his essays a lot, with their off-kilter humor, slightly acerbic, and a little wallowing in his own self-induced misery. I can almost see him receiving the diagnosis with "Of course! What else?"

    Posted by: Caliban | Aug 10, 2012 11:52:39 AM

  4. Oh, nooooo! I loved him!

    Posted by: Seattle Mike | Aug 10, 2012 12:54:40 PM

  5. Very, very sad.

    Posted by: margueritegautier | Aug 10, 2012 2:34:28 PM

  6. This is really sad. David Rakoff was one of my favorite contributors to This American Life. His 'Twas the Morning After ranks as one of my all time favorite pieces. Aargh.

    Posted by: John | Aug 10, 2012 2:46:30 PM

  7. Sad. Sad. Sad. Just one of the best essayists ever. Loved his work. Condolences to his family and friends.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Aug 10, 2012 3:03:24 PM

  8. V sorry to hear this.

    I first heard of David Rakoff through his appearance on "The Daily Show". He was so charming and funny that I immediately ordered a copy of his book, "Don't Get Too Comfortable"

    It more than lived up to my expectations.

    Posted by: bcarter3 | Aug 10, 2012 3:45:33 PM

  9. He was just wonderful as a humorist. But for me the most impressive piece he did was his post-911 essay that included his telling of the story of the loss of the pleasure craft, the General Slocum in the East River in 1904.

    Rakoff's observations in that distinctive voice of dripping-with-queeny sarcasm was and is irreplaceable. He lived just a few blocks from me and i always wanted to meet him. I'm so sorry we've lost him.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Aug 10, 2012 5:44:58 PM

  10. Rakoff was certainly funny and he certainly was clever. More than that, however, he unleashed his humor and wit with incredible accuracy and devastating effect on some of the most perversely offensive players of our perversely offensive Era. I credit the demise of the Log Cabin Republicans, in part, to Rakoff's brilliant and incisive essay on their role in the 2004 electoral cycle.

    For all his mordant wit and hard-earned anger, he retained a starry-eyed, idealistic love for New York City. Much of his rage seemed rooted in a desire to call out those who dared to diminish or sully his adopted home town, and I loved him for that geo-chivalry. I, too, first discovered him through his post-9/11 essay, and found great comfort in his musings: he seemed a truly kindred spirit at a very scary moment.

    My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. Rest in Peace, David.

    Posted by: NKT NYC | Aug 10, 2012 6:06:12 PM

  11. What a loss. A very, very sad day.

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 10, 2012 10:27:47 PM

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