The next time Rodney Dangerfield jokes that it's not easy being him, remember, it's no joke.

The 81-year-old comic underwent lengthy brain surgery Tuesday in order to prepare him for yet another planned trip under the knife, his publicist said.

Doctors at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles began operating on Dangerfield Tuesday morning, rep Kevin Sasaki told the Associated Press. The procedure, involving the insertion of a temporaral artery into the cerebral artery, lasted about 12 hours.

Per Sasaki, the surgery was needed to improve the body's blood flow so that Dangerfield can undergo heart-valve replacement at a later time.

"He's taking care of a lot of things that need to be straightened out," Sasaki told the wire service.

Following the operation, Dangerfield was taken to intensive care for recovery. He was listed in stable condition and is expected to remain hospitalized for upwards of 10 days.

UCLA Medical Center referred questions regarding Dangerfield's status to his rep, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement, Dangerfield allowed he was in "rough shape"--the better to set up a punchline, of course.

"After all this repair work, I'll be as good as new, but right now, I know I'm in rough shape," he said. "I joined a weightlifting class...[and] they started me with helium balloons."

Give the man a rim shot. Please.

If all goes well, Dangerfield will leave the hospital after about 10 days and get the heart-valve job done three weeks after that, Sasaki said.

Dangerfield has faced medical danger numerous times in the last decade. In 1992, he underwent surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In 2000, he underwent double-bypass heart surgery.

On his 80th birthday in 2001, he suffered a heart attack. For once, at least, no surgery was required.

Dangerfield is best known for making high comedy out of low self-esteem. Perpetually tugging at a loosened tie and muttering about "no respect," the former aluminum-siding salesman broke through in the gag business in the 1960s.

He became a screen star in the 1980s, with the hits Caddyshack, Easy Money and Back to School.

Still active, he recently appeared in Adam Sandler's Little Nicky and the low-budget comedy The 4th Tenor, which he cowrote and was coincidentally released straight to video on Tuesday.

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