August 20, 2017

The great Jerry Lewis has died!

NYT obit.
A mercurial personality who could flip from naked neediness to towering rage, Mr. Lewis seemed to contain multitudes, and he explored all of them. His ultimate object of contemplation was his own contradictory self, and he turned his obsession with fragmentation, discontinuity and the limits of language into a spectacle that enchanted children, disturbed adults and fascinated postmodernist critics.
ADDED: I like this 1995 interview (with Charles Grodin, whose show I, unlike most people, loved):



And here's the car chase scene from "The Disorderly Orderly," which I saw when I was 13:



That scene revealed a whole new dimension of hilarity to me. I'd had no idea how funny something could be — just waves and waves of funnier and funnier. With possibly one exception, it's the most I ever laughed at a movie.

AND: Here's the Marc Maron interview with Jerry Lewis.

116 comments:

Darrell said...

Not funny.

Big Mike said...

And he raised a lot of money for muscular dystrophy.

FullMoon said...
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Fernandinande said...

..and polio, too I think; a neighbor of ours with polio was on Jerry's telethon, way back when.

rhhardin said...

I liked his impersonation of the Japanese guy.

bagoh20 said...

He seemed like he was always playing a character. I'm not sure I ever saw the real guy.

Michael K said...

He was even a pioneer in the movie business. He was the first to use a small TV instead of a viewfinder to set up camera shots.

Fernandinande said...

did he do any other serious role?

"The Bookworm Turns".

chickelit said...

His routine with Dean Martin was great. Afterwards, not so much.

tcrosse said...

did he do any other serious role?

In the TV series The Wiseguy in 1987 he played the owner of a garment factory fighting off the Mob for 5 episodes. Ron Silver played his son. Actually very good.

Jim at said...

"did he do any other serious role?"

He did a brief story arc (five episodes) on Wiseguy. Pretty good stuff.

Jim at said...

@tcrosse
Was typing as you posted.

Tommy Duncan said...

Rest in peace, Jerry.

People of my age were blessed in their youth to watch the entertainers of the greatest generation.

tcrosse said...

But Jerry Lee Lewis still lives (knock wood).

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I rarely found anything that Jerry Lewis did as being "funny". He was, it seemed to me, embarrassing and acting in an slapstick UNfunny way. Just like the Three Stooges who I always felt were stupid and felt embarrassed for them. Cringeworthy.

Not my cup of tea for humor.

As a bad guy character he was pretty good and believable. Perhaps that bad person was his real inner self.

Ann Althouse said...

The movie that competes with "Disorderly Orderly" for movie that made me laugh most in a theater is "Get to Know Your Rabbit," which I saw as a member of a test screening audience in Ann Arbor when I was in college. I don't know if the movie that was released was as hilarious as what we saw that night. The Wikipedia page about it says:

?Warner Bros. and star Tommy Smothers felt uneasy about De Palma's direction, as he was at that time an up-and-coming filmmaker with only a couple of films. He was fired from the production due to creative differences, mostly surrounding the ending of the film. Get to Know Your Rabbit was completed by the studio in 1970 but they didn't release it until two years later. Uncertain how to market it, the studio did little to promote it and the movie quickly disappeared from theaters. The experience gave the director a distaste for the studio system, and he would not work for a major studio again for several years."

rhhardin said...

I never laughed harder than with Ernie Kovacs eating a lunch in the tilted room, which, viewed today, doesn't strike me as funny at all.

rhhardin said...

My father laughed at Ernie Kovacs as opera singer wincing when the soprano let loose with a loud note into his ear.

Michael said...

Lewis never wore a pair of socks twice.

madAsHell said...

Jerry Lewis, and the Labor Day Telethon. The last day of summer, and he's pan-handling on the TV. I hated it.
If I recall correctly, he was covered by ABC, NBC, and CBS for 24 hours. Thank goodness the NFL took his time slot.

Richard said...

France mourns!

exhelodrvr1 said...

More significant - they found the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis.

Mark said...

As Michael K. notes, Jerry Lewis pioneered the use of video assist in film-making. He was also a big professor of movie-making, with many of today's big director names being his students.

I saw him live once -- at the Kennedy Center for a production of Damn Yankees.

traditionalguy said...

OMG, for a minute There I thought Jerry Lee Lewis had died.

madAsHell said...

His last film credit was in 2016. His last starring role was Max Rose in 2013.

John said...

I remember liking Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as a kid in the 50s. Then I don't remember seeing him until sometime in the late 60s in a movie on TV.

My reaction at that time was "How could I have ever thought this guy was funny?"

It must have been the pairing with Dean Martin who I have always liked.

I understand the French think he is very funny. One more reason to question French judgement.

John Henry

traditionalguy said...

Seriously, Martin and Lewis was the most popular combination in Baby Boomer history. That part of the title was all a movie needed to sell out.

Ann Althouse said...

News of the deaths of 2 great comedians in the last 24 hours — Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis.

I don't believe in death triads or want anyone to die, but among the oldest comedians who still live: Dick Van Dyke, 91, Mel Brooks, 90, Carl Reiner, 95, Ed Asner 87, and Jim Nabors, 86.

rhhardin said...

I assume they're both going to hell.

Comedians go where they'll fit in best.

Though Dick Gregory was PC pretty much, so might be heaven-bound.

Paddy O said...
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Paddy O said...

I grew up watching Jerry Lewis movies, channel 5 KTLA used to show them regularly on Sunday afternoons. My mom had polio when she was young and got a tour of a studio lot, and tells a story of Lewis putting on a show in the commissary when she and friends were visiting. Something about throwing pats of butter on the roof. I don't quite remember it, but given she spent much of her young life in the hospital, it was a rare moment of hilarity and delight for her. So, he was kind to those who needed kindness, and funny for those who needed a laugh.

It's been forever since I've seen it but for whatever reason Cinderfella atands out to me as a movie I especially liked. I think his famous air big band scene is from that movie.

madAsHell said...

Charles Grodin keeps smiling as if he's going to hit the punch line, but he never does.

Spiros Pappas said...

A wonderful comedian.

Mark said...

An Alaskan Polar Bear Heater for the house.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

did he do any other serious role?

Funny Bones

Jay Elink said...

rhhardin said...
I never laughed harder than with Ernie Kovacs eating a lunch in the tilted room, which, viewed today, doesn't strike me as funny at all.

******************

What about The Nairobi Trio? Or Percy Dovetonsils?

Definitely non-PC, but very funny at the time.

FullMoon said...
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Jay Elink said...

did he do any other serious role?

The King of Comedy, with Sandra Bernhard and Robert De Niro.

FullMoon said...
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Earnest Prole said...

Sui generis

Paul said...

Sorry Ann, I'm 62 and that scene, well that is what passed for entertainment long ago.

I think it's corny. Sorry!

FullMoon said...
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M Jordan said...

I think I laughed at 90% of "Dumb and Dumber" harder than any other movie. Favorite scene: Jim Carrey character (Lloyd? Harry? I can never remember) dreaming about being the life of the party with a bunch of rich people, lighting his farts, etc, then seeing the beautiful Mary Swanson approaching, her breasts lit up like ... headlights! He awakes as a semi approaches.

FullMoon said...
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M Jordan said...

I think you're all missing the point about Ann thinking this the second funniest movie clip evah. It was to her *at the time.*. Important distinction.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Paul said...
Sorry Ann, I'm 62 and that scene, well that is what passed for entertainment long ago.

I think it's corny. Sorry!


The beauty of that clip is that it's a great view of 1960's Los Angeles.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

FullMoon said...

Forgot about that until I followed your link.Most people did not know it is based upon true story.

Who's it based on? My only familiarity with the film is from being stuck in a waiting room somewhere and it was playing. I really didn't think much of it because I don't care for long, drawn out pantomime comedy like Lee Evans does.

FullMoon said...
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TerriW said...

I wonder if this means that The Day the Clown Cried will be made available now.

wild chicken said...

When Martin and Lewis split I was devasted. Then Lucy and Desi broke up! Oy.

Anyway, I thought Lewis was the one more likely to go on to bigger success. Lol.

Carter Wood said...

Ann Althouse said:

I don't believe in death triads or want anyone to die, but among the oldest comedians who still live: Dick Van Dyke, 91, Mel Brooks, 90, Carl Reiner, 95, Ed Asner 87, and Jim Nabors, 86.

I suppose her comedic career would fall a tier below those above, but Rose Marie is 94.

And agreed with those who say the Wiseguy arc about the fashion industry with Lewis was very good.

David said...

Les Francais sont désolé.

FullMoon said...
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Quaestor said...

The in that entire chaotic pandemonium I grinned slightly at two things:
1) The homeowner who after surveying the street filled with loose garbage tips his box of trash into the gutter.
2) The absurd yellow hat

Well, as they say, de gustibus non disputandum est. Nevertheless, there is something distinctly gallic about the professor's sense of humor. Her real name must be Vieillemaison.

Quaestor said...

Jerry Lewis did his best work when he was paired with Dean Martin. Catch Artists and Models sometime.

buwaya said...

The Three Stooges were sheer genius.
Jerry Lewis was below them by quite a lot.

But this is a question of taste of course.
My wife never could stand them.

Robert Cook said...

I also quite liked the Charles Grodin program. Jerry Lewis...after his early films--and my childhood--not so much.

FullMoon said...
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Quaestor said...

The problem with Jerry Lewis as a film comedian was his inability or unwillingness to have one stab at a joke. He never seemed to realize that you only get one chance with most people. If they don't laugh the first time, the second take will only provoke boredom if not downright resentment. The runaway gurney has basically one joke in it, namely a near miss with oncoming traffic. It's not much of a joke, but if you must do it do it once, and make it spectacular. There thousands of near-miss jokes in the history of cinema. Some of the best were done by Harold Lloyd, who specialized in making his stunt comedy look truly dangerous, but sometimes a trivial near-miss scene can be made hilarious by adding a bit of minor pathos as a coda.

I looked for but did not find a good example, so I'll describe it. In the 1973 Richard Lester version of The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan has rushed to England to fetch the Queen's diamonds from the Duke of Buckingham. Together the duke and the musketeer gallop from the hunt field to his palace at breakneck speed to recover them from his secret chamber. As they gallop a man carrying and counting a huge basket of eggs deftly avoids being bowled over by the two riders only to trip over his own feet and land face-first in his treasure. Now that's funny. Lester knew how to do it. If Jerry Lewis was directing that sequence he'd have done the egg gag three time — minimum.

Don Preston said...

In fairness to the French, the whole Jerry Lewis loving stereotype is 40-50 years out of date. Anyone under 30 has probably never heard of him.

Rabel said...

Doris Day and Carol Channing are still breathing.

tcrosse said...

The runaway gurney scene is an hommage to the ambulance scene in "Kill the Umpire" (1950) with William Bendix. Even in 1950 it was a tried-and-true gag.

Rabel said...

As for Doris, I'm saying that I still have a chance.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Carol Burnett is still alive. Her Scarlet O'Hara descending the stairs in the curtains is one of the funniest skits ever.

If you are ever down or just want a good laugh, YouTube some videos of the Carol Burnett Show. Still funny.

tcrosse said...

Let's not forget Betty White (95).

rcocean said...

Comedy is subjective, but the only Jerry Lewis movie I liked as an adult was "The Nutty Professor".

To me, the amazing thing about Lewis was how Unfunny he was off-screen. In every interview I've seen he comes off as lacking wit and often pompous/unlikable. Maybe that's why he's so good in his serious movie roles.

Dean Martin was much more likable and talented as an actor.

rcocean said...

Incredibly Kirk Douglas is still alive and is 101.

The Godfather said...

I'm surprised that Althouse, even at 13, found this funny. This kind of humor appeals to males and appalls females (I say this based on experience: I've been married twice, both times to women, and neither of them liked Jerry Lewis or the Three Stooges). Of course, I thought Lewis and the Stooges were hillarious, until I reached puberty. Now that I'm on the threshold of my second childhood, I may want to try them again.

The Godfather said...

Oh, and Rest in Peace Jerry.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Tim Conway and the Elephant story

The joke is that this skit is where Conway was adlibbing a joke in the middle of a skit and no one could keep a straight face. I bet they had a lot of fun on that show. I miss comedy like this that has no political undertone, meanness or political correctness to ruin the funny

rcocean said...

The Carol Burnett skits with "Mama" and "Eunice" are my favorite.

I always thought that after the show ended, Eunice divorced Ed, moved to LA, and became a liberal Democrat arts teacher.

William said...

When I was very young, I thought he was very funny. When you're older, it's harder to accept his clumsiness and mugging. Too much of an act. There was something about him that I couldn't quite believe in. He was very smart but pretended to be extremely stupid in his movies. The persona didn't fit. That's why "The Nutty Professor" worked so well. He revealed the part of Jerry Lewis that you suspected was lurking under the surface.....I wasn't quite sure about his philanthropy either. He looked like the kind of guy who would treat underlings in an abrupt manner. He also looked capable of acts of great generosity. He had a large soul, but it was crass.......Now that he's dead all sorts of stories will come out, and we'll find out if he was better or worse than he appeared. He certainly did a lot of good things and deserves to be remembered well.

Mark said...

Wow. Hit a raw nerve here for some and another bandwagon comes through town. Or is it that bitterness and bile are corrosive so that that is all one can express after a while.

Paddy O said...

I've never liked the Three Stooges.

Mark said...

So, an episode of Love American Style just came on (MeTV). The second story has Gopher and Ginger and Buddy.

Ralph L said...

Mr. Lewis seemed to contain multitudes
That explains the chipmunk cheeks. I thought it was prednisone.

Ralph L said...

I don't know who was more annoying: Gomer Pyle or those klutzy Lewis characters.

I'd have sworn Asner and Nabors were dead.

cubanbob said...

Poor Jerry. Tough crowd here at Althouse.

eddie willers said...

No love for Visit to a Small Planet?

BudBrown said...

I laughed most during It's A Mad Mad Mad World , though I thought the early 60s Lewis
movies pretty funny. Got me wondering why he wasn't in Mad World. I'd forgotten his cameo.

BudBrown said...

shazaam

Gahrie said...

Martin and Lewis were both at their best together, but neither was willing to be second fiddle. Eddie Murphy at the very least owes Lewis a nice eulogy.

R.I.P. Jerry..you'll be missed.

Quaestor said...

No love for "Visit to a Small Planet?"

Nope. Gore Vidal was too much of an asshole to be forgiven.

Quaestor said...

I've never liked the Three Stooges.

One of the warning signs of terminal betadom.

Gahrie said...

If you are ever down or just want a good laugh, YouTube some videos of the Carol Burnett Show. Still funny.

The Mama's Family elephant story clip where Vicki Lawrence breaks everyone up is one of my favorite clips.

Gahrie said...

DBQ got there first....

Rabel said...

For reasons I don't understand, Mama's Family runs regularly on the gay channel (Logo).

Paddy O said...

"One of the warning signs of terminal betadom."

I find one of the warning signs of terminal alphadizing is having one's own opinion on issues.

Everyone I've known who likes the Three Stooges aren't funny in person.

Take that as you will.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

That interview reminded me of Dana Carvey's brilliant impression of Charles Grodin. Before the internet, you could get away with pausing a while, looking up and to the side, and and reminiscing on WTF you were going to say. Nowadays that unusual style of his would never fly.

Lewis was a really good looking guy, before the chronic back pain. For some reason I'd thought he'd hold out even longer. But whatever anyone's opinion, he was still a comic genius. These things can't all be subjective. Lewis actually was really, really good at what he did - no matter how easily anyone here or there "got" it.

Be said...

In addition to being a Great Physical / Philosophical comedian, not to mention Cinematographer, he really knew how to Hoof It.

(Such ease, for such a tough routine.)

French cineastes are equally perplexed at what's considered over there, American Ignorance, regarding Jerry Lewis.

https://youtu.be/EuVVvEig2ic

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Grodin himself is already 82. Hard to believe.

I had no idea Dean Martin was still alive in 1995, let alone "getting stronger every day," as Lewis said.

Crazy.

rcocean said...

"Everyone I've known who likes the Three Stooges aren't funny in person."

What, even when they hit you upside the head while saying "Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!"?

Change of topic. Its funny how some people get upset - in a passive aggressive way - when others criticize their favorite pop culture figure.

I suppose if you were Jerry Lewis' son or Grand-son it might make sense. Otherwise, not.

Rabel said...

It's gonna be a busy night at the Times and the Post and CNN. They will have to pre-write one editorial explaining why Trump is completely wrong to pull out of Afghanistan and another explaining why Trump is completely wrong not to pull out of Afghanistan.

It's just like Jerry prepping to play both Buddy Love and Professor Kelp.

It's important to stay on topic.

Ken B said...

I never found him funny. That clip - unfunny. So much of humor though is so context sensitive. Stuff that might be funny now because of how people are now won't be funny in a few years. It's hard to do comedy that lasts. Just wait and see: if Chelsea is elected President nothing will seem funny anymore.

Saint Croix said...

I hated much of his art. But at least one of his films is genius, and 3 others are near-genius.

219 Artists and Models (1955) People knock Jerry Lewis more than any other artist, maybe. And he’s made some (bleep). Some really annoying (bleep). Lewis often acts like a child, and he makes no real attempt to ground his comedy in reality. So if you’re not laughing, it’s actually pretty damn horrifying to sit through one of his films.

But I love this movie. It’s brilliant. It’s the first time Frank Tashlin ever worked with Lewis and Martin, and he’s on fire. Tashlin is a guy who made it to the movies after a couple of decades in the world of animation. So his comic sensibilities are surreal and over-the-top, filled with sight gags and fast pacing. His best two movies that I have seen are this one and Son of Paleface (with Bob Hope). Tashlin has made eight Jerry Lewis movies. The French love Jerry Lewis, and so they think Frank Tashlin is a genius. I don’t know if he’s a genius, but this is really funny.

336 Way...Way Out (1966) Jerry Lewis movie, I swear I love this thing. The Commies have a man and woman on the moon. So the Americans send up Jerry Lewis and Connie Stevens, the first married astronauts. It's an arranged marriage, they barely know each other. So the movie has this sweet vibe as these two married strangers start to fall in love. And there's some moon shenanigans. The Russians invade the space station, and Jerry swallows all the vodka pills. I haven't seen this movie in thirty years--it's not out on DVD, a crime--but I have fond memories. It's a happy flick. And the title song is an inspired bit of 60's pop music.

415 The Nutty Professor (1963) Jerry Lewis always swore that he's not doing Dean Martin, but come on. It's too funny. He skewers him. Not just Dino, but Sinatra, the rat pack, all the crooners and half of Las Vegas. He eviscerates the whole cool facade.

624 The Bellboy (1960) Jerry Lewis’ art movie. It’s his smartest comedy (by far).


If you'd wondering why so many people loved him, I would start with one of these. RIP, Mr. Lewis

wild chicken said...

Well count me as a female who liked the Three Stooges. I mean when I was 11. I still laugh at The Dance Lesson reel. "If you want to dance in Society..'

The Orderly clip reminded me of of the cascading slapstick stuff Naked Gun movies used to do with OJ. One horrible thing after another. Bowling balls falling on his head.

Can't get enough of it, I tell ya.

LordSomber said...

I've been told the French sense of humour ceases developing past the age of three. It would explain a lot.
That said, the "Jerry Lewis and Miss Cartilage" dance scene from "Ladies' Man" is brilliant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua4suRfdbWU

The Technicolor modernist stylings of the early sixties always draws me in, whether it's "Nutty Professor," "The Man with the X-Ray Eyes," "Dr. No," or even period pieces like "Mad Men."

jimbino said...

Broke a law of physics.
There's no way the gurney would fly out the back of the ambulance when it was strongly braked.

CStanley said...

@ wild chicken- me too!

Tyrone Slothrop said...

The last time I thought Jerry Lewis was funny, I was six years old.

But he was a genius in France.

exiledonmainstreet said...

The love of the Three Stooges is like the love of hot lesbian sex scenes - they are both two things I will never understand about the male mind.

I liked "Nutty Professor" when I was a kid and thought Lewis was good in "The King of Comedy." However, what I remember the most about him was the final hours of the Telethon, where Lewis sported a five o'clook shadow and the bow tie was off and he was staggering around the stage bleary-eyed chain-smoking cigarettes. As a child, his dedication impressed me (and I also wondered if he'd fall over from exhaustion); I was too little to see that, although Lewis was undoubtedly sincere in wanting to help children with MS, the "I'm ready to drop any second for my kids" was theatrical. I always liked when he had his dog come on - a very well trained Springer Spaniel who could do all kinds of tricks.

Kansas City said...

Fascinating interview of Lewis. Not a fan, but RIP. He did some good things.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGmyHivWyN8

Kansas City said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laslo Spatula said...

Jeery Lewis had the same 'thing' in his comic performances as Martin Short: a desperate, naked need to be liked.

Don't know why, but it bothers me a hell of a lot more with Martin Short.

I am Laslo.

Earnest Prole said...

Your dopey commenters are philistines.

sunsong said...

"I have some very personal feelings about politics, but I don't get into it because I do comedy already. "
~Jerry Lewis

RIP Jerry Lewis:

CarolMR said...

Was the character of Buddy Love based on Dean Martin?

Bill said...

With possibly one exception, it's the most I ever laughed at a movie.


Here's mine, by another comic genius.

Robert Cook said...

"Was the character of Buddy Love based on Dean Martin?"

It has been said Buddy Love was Lewis' portrait of Martin, but others have said it is more a self-portrait by Lewis of himself, or of an aspect of himself, which I find more plausible. Lewis had the greater (and more needy) ego; Martin didn't give a fuck, and thus probably was never so pointlessly abusive to those around him as the Buddy Love character was.

Perhaps it was Lewis' portrait of the Martin he felt rejected and hurt by, whose partnership (and friendship?) he still yearned for. Most hurt ex-partners in broken relationships will tend to paint their exes in unflattering term for a while after they have parted.

Robert Cook said...

"Jeery Lewis had the same 'thing' in his comic performances as Martin Short: a desperate, naked need to be liked.

"Don't know why, but it bothers me a hell of a lot more with Martin Short."



Very good point, but I far prefer Martin Short. Jerry's mannered shtick was only entertaining or tolerable in the 50s, in his work with Dean Martin. He was so skinny and gawky looking he could carry off the immature man-child act more convincingly. As he grew into middle age and filled out physicaly, his act just seemed insulting and repellent. He was excellent in dramatic roles, and he should have pursued them more regularly.

Rusty said...

Jerry Lewis was funny, but he was no W C Fields.

Jeff Gee said...

Jerry's finest five minutes, a total non-sequitur he lobbed into "The Ladies Man."

SukieTawdry said...

Guess you had to be 13. The most I ever laughed at a movie was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on acid (it's pretty damn funny straight, too).

You weren't my cup of tea, Jerry, but I appreciated your work for muscular dystrophy. And the French think you're a genius, so what do I know. RIP

Bad Lieutenant said...


Your dopey commenters are philistines.

Quit talking about Earnest Prole that way, he can't help it!

Oh wait...

Barry Dauphin said...

AA: News of the deaths of 2 great comedians in the last 24 hours — Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis.I don't believe in death triads or want anyone to die,...

Jay Thomas (69)

Barry Dauphin said...

AA: News of the deaths of 2 great comedians in the last 24 hours — Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis.I don't believe in death triads or want anyone to die,...

Jay Thomas (69)