Jerry Lewis is gone. Most people have come to know him as the “guy on the Muscular Dystrophy Telethons”. Still others remember the long career he had as a comedian, director, writer. Or as one-half the legendary comedy team of Martin and Lewis – which eventually launched two careers and created two legends in the process.
I will admit, my favorite period was when it was Martin and Lewis. Growing up, the movie that struck me the most was “At War With The Army” – a movie I practically remembered by heart; one that I saw maybe a hundred times, that I still have, even today on DVD, just in case I absolutely have to hear “tonda wanda hoy comma kalai” one more time.
Admittedly, Jerry Lewis’s brand of comedy wasn’t for all tastes – and some, also admittedly, was cringe-worthy. It always baffled me, why the French considered him a national treasure. Perhaps they saw something in his later work that many of us didn’t – or maybe, as teenagers, we were just too cool to go into fits of laughter over spit-takes.
Whatever it was, Jerry Lewis was part of our culture – part of our youth, a reminder that nothing lasts forever, and perhaps a reminder that life is a finite thing; it has its beginnings, middles and endings and we’re all slated to do the same thing at some point.
So, as a reminder of the Man and his earlier work, I ran across this 2005 interview with Terry Gross for her NPR program Fresh Air. It was conducted around the time of the release of his then-latest memoir Dean and Me: A Love Story, which chronicled Jerry Lewis’ relationship and break-up of the Martin and Lewis team; a team which lasted from 1946 -1956, when the team were the Number 1 the box attraction office and Americas favorite entertainers.
Have a listen and be reminded of, as Bette Midler put it: “A complicated soul who made the whole world laugh”.