Jerry Lewis, 1926–, American comedian, b. Newark, N.J. as Joseph Levitch. The son of vaudevillians, he entered show business early and entertained in the
as a teenager. Known for his slapstick portrayals replete with facial mugging and sight gags, Lewis teamed (1946–56) with singer Dean Martin for a series of nightclub appearances and films. Among the movies Lewis starred in and directed are The Bellboy (1960), The Ladies' Man (1961), and The Nutty Professor (1963). Enormously popular in France where he has been viewed as a major auteur, he left film work in 1970 and concentrated his energies on his activities as national chairman (1950–2011) of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He made an unsuccessful comeback as director in the early 1980s, but won acclaim for his dramatic performance in Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1983).
See his memoir Dean and Me (with J. Kaplan, 2005); biography by S. Levy (1996); studies by F. Krutnik (2000), R. B. Gordon (2001), and M. Pomerance, ed. (2002); filmography by J. L. Neibaur and T. Okuda (1995).