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Home Page> News & Events> I can't say I was ever a big Jerry Lewis fan

I can't say I was ever a big Jerry Lewis fan

I can't say I was ever a big Jerry Lewis fan. More often than not I found him grating and hard to take. Even so, I enjoyed some of his work. And there are some things about him that fascinated me, beginning with his annual Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy.
That telethon, which ran for decades, was how I first became aware of Jerry Lewis. What attracted and appalled me about the telethon is that it was such such a grotesque, bathetic over-the-top campfest. When I was growing up, my brother and I always made a point of watching it, because every year it gave us hours' wroth of priceless MST3K-worthy material to make fun of.
I'm well aware that disability rights community has justifiably taken the telethon to task for its insulting portrayal of people with disabilities. But as a kid and teenager I watched it with fascination, as an entertainment extravaganza that epitomized ghastly Vegas-style showbiz at its worst--the very culture which oddly enough, Lewis had earlier skewered in the form of the Buddy Love character in The Nutty Professor.
Part of what made it so riveting was Lewis's scary dark side, which would come out in full force during the middle of the night when Lewis, who was clearly tripping balls, would unleash bitter, ranting monologues. As James Wolcott wrote in his excellent piece.
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Update : 29-03-2018

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