LONG LIVE THE KING; {Jerry Lewis's World Reign of Comedy Started in the 1940s When He Teamed with Crooner Dean Martin as a Nightclub Act. He Still Performs and Is Coming to the Gold Coast. He Speaks with Ed Southorn. } {Prostate Cancer, Diabetes, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Heart Attacks, Bad Back, Viral Meningitis }

Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia), October 23, 2008 | Go to article overview

LONG LIVE THE KING; {Jerry Lewis's World Reign of Comedy Started in the 1940s When He Teamed with Crooner Dean Martin as a Nightclub Act. He Still Performs and Is Coming to the Gold Coast. He Speaks with Ed Southorn. } {Prostate Cancer, Diabetes, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Heart Attacks, Bad Back, Viral Meningitis }


JERRY Lewis's film The King of Comedy, in which he plays an ageing star haunted by stalkers, was a worldwide hit way back in 1983.

Twenty five years later Lewis is still the king of comedy, and an enduring giant of the entertainment industry, acknowledged by "young" star Jim Carrey as a major influence.

Loved by audiences around the world (in France he has God-like status and was awarded that country's highest accolade, the Legion d'Honneur), Lewis is looking forward to touring Australia with his live stage show, including a bunch of Al Jolson songs.

He'll be at the Gold Coast Convention Centre on October 28.

The 82-year-old has recovered from an incredible seven-year ordeal of poor health, triggered by an attack of viral meningitis, contracted in Darwin, of all places, in 2001.

He spoke to The Mix by phone from his Las Vegas home.

"My last important tour was in Australia. I left with meningitis and I was sick for seven full years.

"I went from hospitals to doctors and all sorts of practitioners, and at times I never thought I'd ever come back, but now I am healthy again, thank goodness.

"Australia is the first place I'm touring since I became ill. So I feel like I'm coming back to say you didn't get me.

"It's a two-hour show. Yes, it's a little exhausting, but you get a few laughs and you get a lot of energy from that.

"I've got 77 years of performing and, you know, I'm still happiest when I'm on stage."

Lewis is also one of the world's greatest fund-raisers.

His regular telethons in America over many years for the Muscular Dystrophy Association have raised more than $US2 billion.

Born in New Jersey in 1926, Lewis' father was a vaudeville performer and his mother a radio station pianist and arranger.

By age 15 he had developed an act miming the lyrics of popular songs.

He teamed up with Dean Martin, who played the straight man to Lewis' increasingly zany comedy antics.

By the 1940s the duo was a popular nightclub act. They worked together for 10 years on radio, TV and in movies.

Lewis is also a very capable singer and began recording albums in the 1950s.

His rise to superstar status began with The Bellboy (1960), filmed in Miami's Fontainebleau Hotel, which showcased his slapstick routines and pioneered a technique later known as "video assist", now used throughout Hollywood, allowing actors to check their work in progress by filming simultaneously with multiple cameras.

"I come from a show business family. I started performing with my father on stage when I was five years old. I really didn't have a lot of choices, but I enjoyed it."

Lewis recalls some of his contemporaries who began their careers as child performers, like Judy Garland, didn't survive the rigors of the entertainment industry.

"If you want to be in this business you really have to love it, there's a commitment that needs to be very strong."

That's because show business survivors have to work very hard under constant scrutiny.

"It's about principles, integrity, purpose, honesty and complete truth. …

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LONG LIVE THE KING; {Jerry Lewis's World Reign of Comedy Started in the 1940s When He Teamed with Crooner Dean Martin as a Nightclub Act. He Still Performs and Is Coming to the Gold Coast. He Speaks with Ed Southorn. } {Prostate Cancer, Diabetes, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Heart Attacks, Bad Back, Viral Meningitis }
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