He called Dean Martin a pal, he was absolutely adored by the French, and he did true good in the world as the national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Jerry Lewis will be missed.
The legendary comedian, singer, actor, filmmaker, producer, and all-around creator died in his Las Vegas home on Sunday morning, his family confirms. He was 91.
Lewis got his start in the late-1940s as one half of a nightclub act that also featured Dean Martin. Their sharp comic timing and natural patter opened the door to a radio program and, later, early television.
Film was a natural next step, and as Martin and Lewis the comedy duo appeared in close to 20 films throughout the early/mid-’50s. Such was their popularity as a two-man team that they even landed in a comic book series: DC’s The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, with 40 issues released between 1952 and 1957.
After the duo split up in 1956 for reasons that have never been fully detailed Lewis carried on doing the work he knew best: entertaining. He sang, he acted, he made people laugh frequently from the comfort of a long-running Las Vegas residency.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Lewis reached the second stage of his career: he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Bellboy, a Paramount Pictures comedy about a bumbling bellboy. Lewis always had a knack for slapstick comedy, and his directorial debut was the perfect platform to showcase it.
Over the next half-decade, Lewis appeared in some of the movies that he is still best known for today, including The Nutty Professor and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He never stopped working after that, though he did slow down as the years piled on.
Alongside his work as an entertainer, Lewis also made a name for himself as a humanitarian. He was a fundraising force for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, hosting annual telethons from 1952 to 1959, and later, from 1966 to 2010. Estimates point to $2.6 billion in funds raised overall during that time.
Lewis very recently became a pop culture hero once again after an infamous video interview with The Hollywood Reporter went south. His notoriously media-unfriendly attitude was on full display, and that saltiness immediately endeared Lewis to an internet that celebrates unconventional figures.
It should come as no surprise that news of Lewis’ death was greeted by an outpouring of condolences from all corners of pop culture. Many of the most popular names today grew up idolizing the 91-year-old entertainer.
Jerry Lewis was a comic and philanthropic icon. I send love to his family today.
Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 20, 2017
As a kid, I’m pretty sure I was the biggest Jerry Lewis fan in the world. Truly. R.I.P. Jerry Lewis.
Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) August 20, 2017
Jerry Lewis. You were blessed, and blessed us with the perfect combination of comedy and Tragedy. A perfect clown who could do it all. Rest
Goldie Hawn (@goldiehawn) August 20, 2017
Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis in a 12 hour span? That shit happens in threes. I’m rollin’ up in bubble wrap and layin’ on the floor & whatnot
George Wallace (@MrGeorgeWallace) August 20, 2017
How lucky are we to have ever had Jerry Lewis in the 1st place? We’ll certainly never see his equal again. What a giant. RIP my friend.
Paul Reiser (@PaulReiser) August 20, 2017
Baba DickGregory yesterday,JerryLewis today. Earth is less funny this past weekend. 2 cats that helped this Whirl far beyond their jokes
Chuck D (@MrChuckD) August 20, 2017
Jerry Lewis passed today,millions around the world loved him,millions of kids he helped w/his telethons. R.I.P. &condolences 2 his family
Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) August 20, 2017