August 20, 2017
Obituary – In Remembrance
On Sunday, August 20, 2017, legendary comedian and humanitarian Jerry Lewis died in his Las Vegas home at the age of 91. Lewis grew up in Newark, New Jersey and would become an iconic figure in the early years of American television thanks to his absurd style of slapstick humor.
Lewis rose to fame performing with American singer Dean Martin. They formed a duo in 1946, when they began performing at night clubs, before making the jump to radio in 1949. Lewis met Martin at the Glass Hat Club in New York City. Lewis was performing a comedy bit in which he lip synced to phonograph records, while Martin was a singer. The two would work together to become one of the most prominent acts in the mid 20th century, with Martin playing the straight man to Lewis.
They made their live television debut in 1948 on Toast of the Town, which would go on to become The Ed Sullivan Show. They starred in sixteen films together starting with 1950s At War with the Army, and even became the subjects of their very own comic strip, published by DC Comics.
In 1956, Lewis and Martin split for unclear reasons. Lewis would continue on to have a successful solo career as an actor and a singer. After filling in for Judy Garland at a performance in Las Vegas, the actor landed a record deal with Capitol Records and released Jerry Lewis Just Sings, which would go on to reach number three on the Billboard charts.
Through the rest of the 50s and into the 60s, Lewis starred in numerous successful films including Sad Sack, The Nutty Professor, and The Family Jewels, sometimes playing multiple roles. As he aged, he continued to work on different projects, such as directing a musical adaptation of The Nutty Professor in 2012.
Lewis worked to support research for Muscular Dystrophy throughout his life. From 1966-2010, he hosted a telethon each Labor Day weekend to solicit donations. This event, which lasted just under fifty years, managed to raise over $2 billion dollars for funding Muscular Dystrophy research.
Jerry Lewis was one of the earliest pop culture stars in American society. He was an iconic figure in film, television, and music.