The brilliance of Jerry Lewis

Originally published at: The brilliance of Jerry Lewis | Boing Boing

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OK, can we please stop making fun of the French now for liking him?

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I’m French, and I never heard of this. Snicker…

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I’ve always found his over the top style too much - but whenever I see him having ‘normal’ conversations or interviews he rolls me - not sure what it says about my view of humor but I recognize the talent.

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I would highly recommend watching The King of Comedy. Lewis plays a retirement-age tv show host/comedian who Robert Deniro goes all Taxi Driver on. His performance is absolutely incredible and absent of his usual broad comedy. I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about him, but it cast him in an entirely new light for me. I can see why it’s not considered one of Scorsese’s best, but for me it’s right up there.

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My favorite of the Scorsese films I’ve seen.

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Jerry Lewis is a very disturbing person. Because, unlike, say a Danny Kaye or a Will Ferrell, who when you pull away the mask you find a genuinely decent person— Jerry Lewis is a disgruntled unfunny man, full of grudges, vendettas, and insecurities. It’s bad enough he was constantly cheating on his wife, but then he disinherited his entire first family— is that because he’s so ashamed, he didnt just divorce his wife, but also “divorced” his first 6 children? As with a Woody Allen, once you know his true character and that he has that much psychological baggage, it rather detracts from subsequent viewings of his artistic performances.
            And then there’s this Lewis quote: "I don't like any female comedians. A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world." One can imagine him amplifying: “Yeah, it might, rightly, offend some people— but it doesn’t offend me.” The guy is a product of the '50s and never left it.

In his heyday, Jerry Lewis was the king of funny.

Which was the '50s/early '60s. The Lewis of the '70s not so much. The Lewis after that, not at all.

His performance [in The King of Comedy] is absolutely incredible and absent of his usual broad comedy.

Because he wasn’t acting. That’s more or less who he is. He takes himself very seriously. (Cf: Chevy Chase. Another guy who, once you learn anything about him, it poisons any further viewings of his work.) Having said that: absolutely, TKOC was the role of a lifetime (although really, credit to Scorsese for the casting).

To cynical me, that always seemed like it was Lewis vying for some sort of relevance/attention, and any benefit to the recipients of his charity was a second-order effect. It was called “The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon”… There was always something “off” about it. (His vendetta with Joan Rivers begins and ends with her joking about this and his prickly sensitivity about it— well, and his casual retrograde sexism regarding women/female comedians.)

The brilliance of Jerry Lewis? What comes through in the interview is pain and tension. For whatever reason, this is not a man at peace with himself.

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He had a very interesting dramatic run on Wiseguy as a clothing maker embroiled with “The New Mafia”. No comedy, kinda grim

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Do you think the MDA telethons were his way to balance the karmic scales?

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Despite my praise for his performance above, this is exactly the impression I got.

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On a lighter note, there’s this:

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Highly underrated and a must watch. While I wasn’t ever really a fan of Lewis’ brand of comedy he was astonishingly good in this film.

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Many of Lewis’s movies, especially from the early 1960s, are definitely replete with social commentary. I suspect the resemblance of some of these (especially The Bellboy) to Jacques Tati’s films is one reason for his popularity among some French critics.

I never found his earlier movies very funny (well, except for Artists and Models, where Shirley MacLaine somehow brings out the best in him), and these later movies aren’t very “ha ha” funny either, but they’re really well crafted.

As for the famous misogynous quote, when asked later in life about some specific broad comedians who happened to be women, he relented a (little, tiny) bit:

Ask again, and he says:

“I saw Carol Burnett two weeks ago at the Smith Center, and she’s a funny, funny lady. Phyllis (Diller) was very funny, too. And Totie Fields. There are a half-dozen brilliant women comediennes.

… I have said before that when I see a woman, I see that she can give birth, and that is a miracle. Watching her onstage, to see a woman do this (mimes the “fart noise” and “Heil Hitler” arm motions), is no big deal … but Carol, Totie, Phyllis, they were always right on the money.”

(Source)

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We are all broken toys - making out of life what you are best at - well there are many crappy people who don’t brighten others lives (if only for a moment) - this one did - he was rewarded well for it, I hold no animus over the skeletons in the closet of dead artists, I have learned to cope with the fact that being famous or popular doesn’t magically make someone a saint :slight_smile:

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Well; that’s over a billion dollars that he raised.
And he gets burnt by our ‘woke world’ because he calls a set hand a “f-got”.

Nobody wins in so many scenarios; but for the love of it all. The guy was, and is; an unprecedented producer for his chosen cause.

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No evaluation of Lewis is complete without discussion of The Day the Clown Cried. I mean…WTactualF???

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