The king of comedy Jerry Lewis died of old age at his family home on Sunday, leaving behind an empty world filled with serious people with long faces.
Jerry Lewis was 91. The comic genius made the world laugh for 70 years.
Lewis’s role in his finest film performance ‘The King of Comedy’ demonstrated his least notable funny character, but gave a glimpse into the real world of comedy and the merciless king who ruled over it.
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Born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, Lewis first rose to fame in his 20s, shortly after World War II, with his nightclub act opposite crooner Dean Martin, who played the unflappable straight man to Lewis’s antics. Their meteoric rise hinged on their chemistry as performers — ‘sex and slapstick,’ Lewis would call it: Martin’s unstoppable cool, Lewis’s uncontainable comedy.
The two starred in more than a dozen movies together before their split in 1956. Lewis would go on to appear in dozens more as a solo star, including his biggest hit, 1963’s “The Nutty Professor.” He was also a writer and director.
R.I.P. Jerry Lewis
thank you so much for good Times in my youth
Never forget you#JerryLewis pic.twitter.com/z35h2n1uZj
— TimeSpirit (@TimeSpirit2) August 20, 2017
From 1966 to 2010, Lewis hosted the annual Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, an event that could run up to 21 hours and featured interviews by Lewis, skits and musical performances. A Los Angeles Times article from 2011, the year after Lewis last hosted the event, reported that Lewis’s telethons had helped raise more than $2.5 billion for research into the disease.
Lewis was given the French Legion of Honor award in 1984 — the comedian was appreciated in France long after his slapstick appeal had faded in the US. He never won an Oscar performances, though he was widely beloved, but was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009, and was made an honorary member of the Order of Australia for his charitable work in 2013.
Goodbye to the real, no irony, king of comedy. pic.twitter.com/t7qEkDo4Sl
— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) August 20, 2017
He would attribute his incredible stardom to his childlike attitude toward the world. “I made a career out of it. It’s a wonderful place to be,” he explained, according to the BBC. “I’ve had great success being a total idiot.”
Lewis leaves behind a wife, six sons and one daughter.
#RIP Jerry Lewis, who has passed away at the age of 91. #DeanMartin en #JerryLewis.
Together again… pic.twitter.com/ECTuKkOxHK
— The Invisible Man (@invisibleman_17) August 20, 2017
“Every man’s dream is to be able to sink into the arms of a woman without also falling into her hands.”
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