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Popular Topics in Literature
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In Memoriam
In Memoriam: David Rakoff (1964-2012)
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 08/10/12
Last updated on: 08/10/12
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Humorist David Rakoff, best known for his contributions to Public Radio International's This American Life, died of cancer on August 9, 2012 in Manhattan. His mordant, self-mocking essays, published in such venues as New York Magazine, New York Times Magazine, GQ, and Outside, and collected in three books of essays, are reminiscent of those of David Sedaris, with whom he was closely associated.

Born in Montreal, Rakoff lived in the United States from 1982, when he moved to New York to attend Columbia University, until his death. He became an American citizen in 2003, though he retained his Canadian citizenship.

In 1992, Rakoff wrote a fan letter to David Sedaris after hearing him read his famous essay about working as a Christmas elf. They became friends and Rakoff directed a play written by Sedaris and his sister Amy and later acted in their plays. Through Sedaris, Rakoff met Ira Glass, who later would produce This American Life, where Rakoff achieved fame. His first essay for the program was "Christmas Freud," an account of Rakoff's job impersonating Sigmund Freud in the window of Barneys department store during the holidays.

Rakoff won two Lambda Literary Awards in the category of Humor for his collections, Fraud (2001) and Don't Get Too Comfortable (2005). A third collection of essays, Half Empty, was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

In addition to his radio essays, Rakoff also wrote screenplays and performed as a film, television, and stage actor.

He is survived by his parents, a brother, and a sister.

In the video below, Rakoff reads an essay from Don't Get Too Comfortable

In the following video, Rakoff discusses his work, including his diagnosis with cancer, with Canada's Xtra!

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