Monday, September 29, 2014
JERRY LEWIS AT 88
We didn’t really think the King of Comedy would go gently into the night, did we? That the Nutty Professor would just fade away after 83 years of making us laugh?
Forget it. This is Jerry Lewis we’re talking about. He started working at 5 and hasn’t stopped since. There’s no quit in this guy.
Next month, the 88-year-old comedian will be coming to L.A. to appear at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills (the old Wilshire Theatre) for a 2½-hour show that may last all night. It all depends on the audience, Lewis says. When they run out of questions for him, he’ll go home.
“I’m sitting here preparing for the show like it’s a 15-week engagement,” he quips last week from his office in his 10,000-square-foot home just off the Las Vegas strip — a six minute drive to the nearest black jack and craps table.
“I love to gamble,” says the man whose whole life has been one big gamble.
The word is Lewis is a tough interview. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly. His record for the shortest sit-down with a reporter is under one minute. An out-of-town entertainment writer asked him what he was doing in Vegas?
Lewis shot back, “I’ve lived here for 36 years, schmuck.” End of interview. Next time do your homework, pal.
People are going to be paying good money to sit in that theater, and I’m going to be perfect,” he says, opening a red, loose-leaf binder of old film clips from his days with Dean Martin, along with jokes, songs, and skits he’ll be performing.
“I’m too old for pratfalls anymore but I promise the audience will be absolutely enthralled at how quietly I sit,” he jokes.
His voice is strong, his patented funny faces still get a laugh, and his jokes are timeless. The only concession to age is a pair of earphones he wears during the interview to amplify sound.
“I did a concert three weeks ago, and a woman gets up and says ‘what do you say to the fact that I want to just hug you and rub you all over me?’
“I said ‘I’m in room 713.’ ” Bada-boom.
He still feels deep regrets about never finishing the job he had for 61 years hosting the MDA telethon and raising more than $2.6 billion to find a cure for muscular dystrophy. He wants to do a 21-hour telethon for the Wounded Warriors program, and Lewis claims he has big name stars like George Clooney and Billy Crystal ready to help. Also, Lewis is currently writing a one-man show that he hopes to take to Broadway.
As always, he’ll be nervous standing in the wings before the show at the Saban on Oct. 10, but the minute he walks on stage and hears that applause the nerves are gone.
“My dad used to say if you don’t get nervous, you don’t care,” Lewis says. “When I hear that first applause, my heart spreads across my chest, and I’m as happy as a pig in s..t!
We didn’t really think the King of Comedy would go gently into the night, did we?