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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