Essayist and journalist David Rakoff dies at 47

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David Rakoff

David Rakoff

Canadian-born essayist, journalist and actor David Rakoff, a writer for The New York Times Magazine and many other publications, died Thursday evening. He was 47.

Rakoff was in the voice cast of the 2009 Williams Street animated pilot Snake ‘n’ Bacon. Based on the creations of American cartoonist and illustrator Michael Kupperman, it aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim channel.

Born in Montreal on November 27, 1964, he was a graduate of Columbia University. He obtained dual Canadian-American citizenship in 2003, and lived in New York City. His brother Simon is a stand-up comedian.

His essays appeared regularly in Vogue, Salon, Wired, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, and GQ, for which Rakoff served as a writer-at-large. He also was a frequent contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International.

Rakoff’s essays were collected in the books Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and are largely autobiographical and humorous. Both collections were New York Times best-sellers in non-fiction and received Lambda Literary Awards for Humor.

He was openly gay, and his writings have been compared to those of essayist and friend David Sedaris. Rakoff was even mistaken for Sedaris once while performing in a storefront window; both authors wrote about this incident in their books.

Rakoff was featured in the This American Life episode 305, the holiday show, on December 23, 2005, and episode 156, “What Remains,” broadcast 21 March 2000. He is the only individual to host in place of Ira Glass a This American Life episode (Episode 248 – “Like It Or Not”). Rakoff made several appearances on The Daily Show, and voiced the reading part of Thomas Jefferson for Jon Stewart’s America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.

Rakoff’s acting roles included the Off-Broadway comedy play The Book of Liz, authored by friends David and Amy Sedaris; the film Strangers with Candy, also co-written by Amy Sedaris, and a cameo in the film Capote.

He received the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor. His writing also appeared in Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Wired, New York Magazine and The New York Observer.

As an actor and director, he appeared in Cheryl Dunyé’s film The Watermelon Woman, portrayed Lance Loud on stage, Vladimir Mayakovsky on public television, and Sigmund Freud in the window of Barney’s department store.

He guested on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brian and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Rakoff wrote the adaptation for and starred in the 2010 Academy Award-winning short film The New Tenants.

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