Monday, September 6, 2010

Jerry Lewis on the fleeting nature of funny

The Chicago Tribune published an article today about Jerry Lewis, the 84-year-old comedian-filmmaker-humanitarian who's been hosting the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon every Labor Day weekend since 1966.

Alternating between trash-talking and tenderness, sweetness and snark, conversation about Lewis' future endeavors compelled the star to consider what had brought him here—and the fleeting nature of comedy.

"Funny is fragile. It's elusive," Lewis said. "It's elusive to everyone because you're never going to get a handle on what's funny. And people don't stay funny. As we get older, we lose a spark.

"But I can make somebody laugh when I open my eyes. It's still there when I shut them," he continued.

Yes to funny being fragile, no to Lewis still being able to make people laugh whether he's awake or comatose. (Double no to any comedian who claims he's still funny in his mid-80s right after he says funny is fragile.)

Personally, I've never found his shtick funny. I do admire him for his fund-raising efforts on behalf of those with muscular dystrophy, but just like reporter Chris Lee, I'm curious about something ...

How did Lewis become interested in the disease in the first place?

"That's never been answered by me and never will be!" Lewis snapped, suddenly bristling with indignation. "The important thing is not why, but that I do."


  1. There was a really interesting New Yorker profile of him a few years ago.

    At what age do you think people lose their comedy spark? 45?

  2. I don't think there's an age cutoff, necessarily -- Jack Benny was funny in his 60s, and he's still funny when I watch reruns of his TV show today (I saw it for the first time just a couple years ago) -- but just like with musicians, I think youth helps.

  3. I loved Jerry Lewis reruns when I was a child..No matter how I have tried on and off to watch his old movies again, it doesn't seem funny at all...His humor and hay days with Dean Martin, were dated from a time when stict was funny...It's not at all funny anymore, comedy has evolved stict has evolved...The only person I can think of as coming close to JL type of physical comedy is Jim Carey and his physical comedy is far superior to Jerry...I think JL has been a old alcoholic has been for quite awhile, and the only way he can get any acclaim/attention is to do the marathon...Do I believe he really cares about his "Jerry's Kids", no I think he cares mostly about his image, looking like a good guy and having a venue to stay in the Lyme light...He refuses to help his own out of wedlock daughter, who is disabled and was homeless...He is trying to keep up his image for his fans, I find him pretty disgusting, a racist, homophobes, who won't stand up, and be a man, do the right thing...Even before I heard about his daughter, which was only tonight, and I have not even thought about the man for years, I thought he was dead...I have felt he was a disgusting egotist, and couldn't stand to watch his marathon ever...It's not about "Jerry's Kids" it's about Jerry Lewis and his over inflated ego...