David Rakoff, This American Life contributor, dies at 47

By Dru Sefton

Humorist and essayist David Rakoff, a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s This American Life since the program’s inception, died Aug. 9 after a fight with cancer that dated to his 20s. He was 47.

David Rakoff. (Photo: This American Life)

Rakoff worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. He appeared dozens of times on TAL to recite his essays, which often balanced pessimism with a wry sensibility. During a live performance of TAL staged in May, Rakoff spoke frankly about the latest battle with the disease.

He has also guest-hosted for the show on occasion, filling in for Ira Glass.

In a statement on TAL’s website, Glass described Rakoff as “my friend, our friend here at the radio show and our brother in creating the program, making it into what it’s become. We loved him. We’ll miss him.”

TAL devoted its Aug. 17 show to Rakoff’s segments, several heard for the first time.

Rakoff authored three books of essays and often freelanced for outlets including the New York Times, New York Magazine and Salon. His 2010 book, Half Empty, won the Thurber Prize for American Humor in October. Doubleday will publish his final work next year: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish.

He was a Montreal native but resided in New York City most of his life.

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