Standup Comedian Kevin Rooney Dies at Age 71

·3 min read
Kevin Rooney
Kevin Rooney

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Standup comedian Kevin Rooney has died. He was 71.

The Emmy winner, who worked on Jay Leno's first comedy special Jay Leno and the American Dream and The Dennis Miller Show, passed away on July 9 at his home after a long battle with diabetes and end-stage renal failure, according to Deadline.

His death was also confirmed by his wife Carole Raphaelle Davis and former assistant Jay Mandyam to The Hollywood Reporter.

After meeting at The Improv in New York City in the 1980s, Rooney began writing Leno's "what's my beef?" segments for Late Night with David Letterman and later worked on his 1986 comedy special, the outlet reported.

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"He was the greatest muse a comedian could ever have," Leno said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "I got so much material just through conversations with Kevin. The first time I saw him, I thought, 'Oh boy, this guy is really good.' It's a real voice. There's no gimmicks. He didn't have a catch phrase. There wasn't a funny look."

"When times were rough, they throw out the catch phrase or funny look. Kevin didn't have any of that. I don't know anybody who thought they were better than Kevin Rooney," he continued. "When Kevin took the stage, we'd all step inside. Me, [Jerry] Seinfeld, Larry Miller. At the end of the night, we'd all say, 'Rooney's story was really funny.' We were all genuinely happy when he had success."

Leno added that Rooney will be remembered for his one-of-a-kind voice.

"He was a guy who earned it, a unique voice," Leno shared. "Never derivative of anyone else. It was that classic New England sarcastic voice. But there was a humanity behind it. Even when he said the most sarcastic thing. He will be greatly missed."

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Rooney was also a writer for HBO's The Dennis Miller Show which earned him two consecutive Emmys  in 1994 and 1995.

Rooney also brought his writing talents to sitcoms including Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace, The Naked Truth, Boston Common, My Wife and Kids, Brothers and 'til Death.

He performed standup on shows including late-night talks shows including The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.

Rooney joined the cast of Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally to play Ira.

The comedian also became a mentor for up-and-coming stars including Judd Apatow.

"Kevin was the sweetest man, but he loved to rant - and when he did, no one was funnier," Apatow shared in a statement. "He won two Emmys for writing epic rants for Dennis Miller's talk shows. He was not a famous man, but comedy people knew him well and mourn him as one of the best of all time."

On July 9, Apatow also paid tribute to the late comedian on Twitter, writing, "So sad to hear about Kevin Rooney. He was hilariously funny. His material was so smart and biting."

He added, "He wrote a lot of great material for Dennis Miller and Jay Leno. When I first started he was so kind and taught me so much about stand up and writing. A legendary person. RIP."