Jerry Lewis – Was he the funniest man alive?
I don’t know, but he was indeed one of the longest-standing comedians in our time.
Jerry Lewis was born on March 16, 1926. He passed away on August 20th at 91 years old.
Director of Photography Mark Schulze and I had a chance to meet him several years ago on his boat. At that time, we videotaped a short statement from Jerry that would be played at the award ceremony for his good friend, Norm Crosby. Norm was born a year and a half later than Jerry Lewis, in September of 1927 and is known as the Master of Malaprop.
What’s malopropism? I didn’t know either, and had to look it up.
Malopropism is the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one. It often results in an unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, “dance a flamingo ” (instead of flamenco ).
The Great Jerry Lewis
Anyway, Jerry Lewis was quite intimidating at first. He had been an icon throughout my entire childhood; Mark’s too. Not to mention his indefatigable philanthropic work with the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon to the tune of billions of dollars over the decades.
So we knew we’d better get our shot right in the first take because that would probably end up being the only take. At one point Mark asked Mr. Lewis to move away from the window so the shot wouldn’t be blown out. To that request, Mr. Lewis replied, “This ain’t the Academy Awards, kid, let’s get this over with.”
And so we did. He delivered a heart-felt statement to his friend, Norm Crosby, we called it a Wrap, and then bundled up our gear and were ready to head off the boat. At that point, he introduced us to his daughter’s dog, a chihuahua. He marveled that he had never liked small, yappy dogs before, until meeting this one, and he really enjoyed having it around.
I boldly asked for a photo with him. He grinned and said “Sure.” Mark wanted a photo with Jerry, too; Jerry graced that shot with a funny face.
I felt like the door was open so I asked him about the time Don Rickles had called him a “fat Jew whale” on the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon show.
He laughed and said, “Ah, Don Rickles is a great guy, a sweet man.”
And so was Jerry Lewis. A great guy, a sweet man.