Jerry Lewis, Comedy Legend, Dies at 91

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock


August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis, the brash slapstick comic who teamed with Dean Martin in the 1950s and later starred in “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy” before launching the Muscular Dystrophy telethon, has died in Las Vegas. He was 91.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal columnistfessor” and “The Bellboy” before launching the Muscular Dystrophy telethon, has died in Las Vegas. He was 91. John Katsilometes reported that he died at his home at 9:15 a.m. and his agent confirmed the news.

Over the past 10 years of his life, the cranky icon’s reputation soured as he was forced to apologize for making a gay slur on camera during the 2007 telethon, continued to make racist and misogynistic jokes into his ’90s, and didn’t hesitate to share his right-wing political views.

He appeared in a few later films such as Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” but Lewis was largely offscreen from the late ’60s on and was more active with his annual Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethon, for which he raised more than $2.45 billion before being relieved of his role as leader of the telethon in 2011. As late as 2016, he continued to perform in Las Vegas, where he first did his comedy routine in 1949.

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  1. “Jerrry’s kids.'” There may be a generation more familiar with Jerry’s Labor Day telethons for muscular dystrophy than with his comedy career. For more than four decades (!!) the Jerry Lewis telethon represented the greatest collection of talent to be found in one place, and as many as 200 stations dedicated countless hours to the MDA charity. Mr. Lewis was forced out in 2010, and within 5 years the telethon was toast.
    Jerry was a unique personality and talent. I doubt we’ll see his like again.

  2. I remember one of Dean Martin’s daughters (probably Deana) being touched by Jerry Lewis joining her during a Larry King tribute to Dino, shortly after his death in 1995. I guess she’d probably known him as “Uncle” Jerry in her early childhood when Martin and Lewis were all the rage. Despite his acrimonious split with Dean, Jerry was loquacious in recalling anecdotes from their heyday.

    Seems to me that Deana Martin reached out to Jerry a decade later to record a duet of Time After Time for a nostalgia-themed album. Never heard their version, although Cyndi Lauper’s original often makes me verklempt.

    It was very uncool to admit liking Jerry Lewis back in the ’60. I did. Gotta confess that I also preferred his son Gary’s musical efforts with The Playboys to Dino (Martin), Desi (Arnaz) and Billy (Hinsche). Still, both acts did their pops proud.

    One of my best friends, who despised Lewis “humour” was later perplexed that France gave him an award for film genius. Perhaps with Jerry’s passing, his estate will see fit to finally release a serious Holocaust movie he made then shelved.


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