David Rakoff : biography
David Benjamin Rakoff (November 27, 1964 – August 9, 2012) was a Canadian-born writer based in New York City who was noted for his humorous, sometimes autobiographical non-fiction essays. Rakoff was an essayist, journalist, and actor, and a regular contributor to WBEZ’s This American Life. Rakoff described himself as a "New York writer" who also happened to be a "Canadian writer", a "mega Jewish writer", a "gay writer" and an "East Asian Studies major who has forgotten most of his Japanese" writer., Cbc.ca. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
Rakoff died of cancer in Manhattan on August 9, 2012.
Acting and voice work
Rakoff said that his first career choice was to be an actor: he wrote, "like generations of other misfits before me, be they morphological, sexual or otherwise, I decided that I would make theatre my refuge". Rakoff performed in the theatre at university and acted while working full-time in the publishing industry and later while freelancing as a writer.Kharakh, Ben, , gothamist, June 29, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2010. For instance, he performed at the first US Comedy Arts Festival in 1995 in a play written by a friend.Rakoff, David, "The Best Medicine" in Fraud: essays (2001), p 102. He has said that he likes acting because it involves other people, unlike writing.Leveridge, Brett, , Salon.com, June 11, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010. However, his self-assessment of his acting ability was "as it turns out, I’m a deeply uncompelling camera presence"., Outside Magazine, August, 1998. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
Despite his ambitions as a child, he said that he only pursued acting half-heartedly, partly because his family was against him being an actor and partly because of the stereotyping that unimaginative casting agents engage in.Allen, Sandra, , "Wag’s Revue. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff has characterised most of the roles that he auditioned for as "Fudgy McPacker" or "Jewy McHebrew"Rakoff, David"Lather, Rinse, Repeat" in Fraud: essays (2001), p 20. (to which he later added "Classy McSophisticate").McKinnon, Matthew, , October 24, 2005. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Fudgy McPacker is a stereotypically gay character, who is either supercilious or the loveable queen and Jewy McHebrew is the prototypical Jewish part, involving a careworn, inquiring, furrowed browed, bookish type. Rakoff said that he has continued with his theatre work, since such acting stereotypes are not so prevalent in stage work, because audiences are more sophisticated, and there is not as much money at stake, meaning that there is not such risk-averse casting. He has also noted that, as a writer, being gay and being Jewish does not limit his readership or the subjects he can write about in the way it limits his acting roles.
Rakoff appeared in several films, although he noted that almost invariably his part is left on the cutting room floor: "I’ve been cut out of some very august projects." For instance, he worked on The First Wives’ Club (1996), but his scenes were deleted in favour of Bronson Pinchot’s., August 13, 2001. Rakoff’s first major film role was in A cloud in trousers, a short film by Gregg Bordowitz (1995) which appeared on public television, with Rakoff playing Vladimir Mayakovsky on whose poetry the film was based. His subsequent film appearances include performances as a librarian in Cheryl Dunyé’s film The Watermelon Woman (1996),. an appearance by the back of his head as Ben Baron, who is dismissive to Harper Lee, in Bennett Miller’s Capote (2005), a non-speaking role as Boswell in Paul Dinello’s Strangers with Candy (film) (2005) (which was co-written by Amy Sedaris), and roles as a publishing boss in Bad Bosses Go to Hell (1997) and as a duplicitous director in Alison MacLean’s film Intolerable.
Rakoff can be seen in the Academy Award winning short film The New Tenants (2009).. In the film he plays Frank, half of a gay couple who move into an apartment that was vacated unexpectedly.Goodykoontz, Bill, , Detroit Free Press February 19, 2010. Retrieved March 10, 2010. The film begins with Rakoff delivering a bitter, humorous but pessimistic monologue on life and death. Rakoff also adapted the screenplay for the film.