Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis On Comedy

Ben Schwartz

By Ben Schwartz

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Jerry Lewis On Comedy

Jerry Lewis
France’s favorite American comic discusses his craft.

Jerry Lewis has two kinds of fans: those who prefer the gawky shpritzer kid who charmed America with Dean Martin, and those who prefer the telethon pontificator, raising millions for the M.D.A. and railing against his enemies. This interview, conducted by Larry Wilde for his book The Great Comedians Talk about Comedy (1968), is the latter Lewis discussing the former, as well as his philosophy of comedy. Oddly, philosophy is not quite the right word, since Lewis eschews reading books (too time-consuming) and defines his humor as "human comedy" &#8212 a study of human behavior, not a set of intellectual ideas. Caught backstage at NBC in a self-described "funk," Lewis comes across as serious, surly, impatient, but always engaged and passionate in discussing topics like the impact burlesque geniuses Harry Ritz and Milton Berle had on him, Martin and Lewis 'appeal (despite all the tsouris, there was "love"), teaching at the University of Southern California, and his pure love of movies versus the pure work of television.