Sad news has been reported on Sunday August 20: Hollywood comedian Jerry Lewis has passed away at age 91. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the unparalleled comedic genius died at his home in Las Vegas at 9:15 AM local time. His exact cause of death is unclear at time of reporting, but his publicist, Candi Cazeau, did comment on his recent health (as reported by Deadline):
"He had been slightly ill and spent some time in local hospitals, but came home and was planning on making stage appearances” in New York and Las Vegas."
In addition to reporting on Cazeau's comments, Deadline noted that Lewis had been in poor health in recent years, with a heart attack in 2006 having a particularly strong impact on his health and productivity.
While it's particularly sad to learn of Lewis' passing, it's important we appreciate his long career in Hollywood and the impact he had on future generations of comedians. Born Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926, Lewis had a career that spanned seven decades and he was working into his 90s with notable final roles in 2013's Max Rose and 2016's The Trust.
While he got his start working and performing on the Borscht Belt, it wasn't until Lewis met Dean Martin, the crooner du jour of the 1950s, that his star really rose. Together they were Martin & Lewis and to this day are known as one of the most successful duos in the history of show biz. Lewis's schtick as an overgrown kid and Martin's swagger and charm mixed perfectly for the comedic results they strove for. They appeared in film and on stage for 10 years, and Lewis continued, successfully, using that same persona after the duo split up.
Lewis' solo film career was equally as notable. With films like The Nutty Professor, The Sad Sack and Don't Give Up the Ship, Lewis' zany style of comedy would become the blueprint for future slapstick comedians who wanted to make a bold statement with their jokes. In fact, Lewis' influence is evident in the way celebrities are now reacting to the news of his passing.
Lewis, also a prolific philanthropist, will also forever be associated with the annual Labor Day Telethon. He hosted the famous telecast from 1955 until 2011, and was actually nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in all the good it did.
As for truly how great Lewis was and how much he'll be missed, we could go on and on, but one of his quotes sums it up nicely:
For those who understand, no explanation is needed...for those who don't, none will do.
Rest in peace, Buddy Love.