Is he going to pull it off again? That is
July 10, 2005 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Is he going to pull it off again? That is The 40th televised Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.First broadcast , 1966. that makes it 40 years. Hats off to Jerry Lewis. Buy that man a case fo Red Bull on August 30th.
posted by celerystick (37 comments total)
Jerry Lewis and Ted Kennedy are morphing into a real life bad film made by Eddie Murphy
posted by paleocon at 5:22 PM on July 10, 2005

Whatever else you want to say about Jerry Lewis, he took a little publicized ailment and made it a national conern. And Jim Carrey has made a career out of doing third-rate ipersations of the man.
and as far as Jerry's comedic talents, I offer this from Carlie Chaplin's IMDB biography:

At the Golden Camera Awards 2005 in Berlin, Geraldine Chaplin told in a moving speech honoring Jerry Lewis about the last time she saw her father alive. He watched a movie of Lewis on television screaming "He`s funny, that bastard!".
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on July 10, 2005

From Guinness World Records ... The record for the largest amount of money raised on a telethon belongs to the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. The running total, since it was first broadcast in 1966 is $1.01 billion (£7.08 billion).
posted by R. Mutt at 5:33 PM on July 10, 2005

2005 - 1966 = 39 years if im not missing something here.
posted by sourbrew at 5:38 PM on July 10, 2005

It is new math.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:42 PM on July 10, 2005

R. Mutt, those numbers seem incongruous with each other.
posted by caddis at 5:42 PM on July 10, 2005

It's 40, sourbrew. You miss one when you subtract. 2005-2004=1, but if you did a show each year, that'd equal 2 shows.
posted by Sangre Azul at 5:43 PM on July 10, 2005

I love the contrasting quiet dignity displayed by his disowned "kids."

Who are sitting in wheelchairs Lewis' telethons paid for. There's a word for people like that.

But your previous posts here have taught me not to expect much better of you.
posted by jonmc at 5:44 PM on July 10, 2005

Hmmm, caddis, I agree. Its a direct quote from The Guinness World Book site, and if we can't trust them ... well, god help us.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:48 PM on July 10, 2005

2005-2004 may be two shows, but it's only one year. Oh, just forget it.
posted by grouse at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2005

Roughly, 1 billion US = 575 million GBP?
posted by R. Mutt at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2005

Wow, you are right. I think the decimal point for the pounds total is off by one. Some Google searching shows around a billion dollars US.
posted by caddis at 5:59 PM on July 10, 2005

It is new math. yeah ok only 39. Sorry. It's all show biz anyway. Now, ...try to refute Tony Orlando's calculation (on Bob Hope): "If you could take all the laughs Bob Hope has gotten over the years and place them end-to-end, they would stretch all the way to the universe and fill up the black hole in space."
posted by celerystick at 6:21 PM on July 10, 2005

It's the 40th.
posted by LinusMines at 6:46 PM on July 10, 2005

"Stop it. You're killing me"
posted by growabrain at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2005

America's hate for one of her greatest artists of the post-war era is just appalling.
No comedian since Charles Chaplin has been so loved and so reviled. He is America's Dark Prince of Comedy—brilliant, bitter, passionate and deeply conflicted. A man of many demons, his cockiness conceals a labyrinth of doubts and self-destructive impulses. An American original whom Americans have never quite come to terms with, he also happens to be one of the greatest filmmakers of the latter half of the 20th century. And for this he deserves an Academy Award.

It's not surprising that he's never even been nominated for one. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a tradition of snubbing comedians. The list of those whose movies failed to win a single Oscar is appallingly long and distinguished: Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Mabel Normand, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, to name a few. The academy finally gave Keaton an honorary Oscar in 1960, and one to Stan Laurel in 1961 (after Lewis lobbied passionately on his behalf), and even one to Charlie Chaplin in 1972, bringing the once-demonized "un-American" director back to Hollywood after 20 years of exile in Europe.

Now it's time to honor Jerry Lewis.
Hallelujah, brother.
and don't forget Lewis invented the video assist, now an industry standard. he has every union card in the business -- he can shoot, light, edit a film. he could work as a grip (now he is of course too ill). the Total Film-Maker. the true King of Comedy.
posted by matteo at 7:43 PM on July 10, 2005

The telethon is one of the few places where you can still see vintage entertainment schlock, schmaltz, and shtick without leaving the comfort of your own home. It's not as funny as it used to be, but at times it can be more uncomfortable than even the most twisted Curb Your Enthusiasm. Am I the only one that watches that show and says "I thought he was dead!" about once every five guests?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:49 PM on July 10, 2005

Cinderfella was one of my favorite flicks as a kid and to this day I have a special laugh that can only be extracted by old Jerry Lewis movies. Can't help it...I just love that sumbitch.
posted by jrossi4r at 7:57 PM on July 10, 2005

The list of those whose movies failed to win a single Oscar is appallingly long and distinguished: Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Mabel Normand, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, to name a few.

I believe that it was Willie Nelson who recently stated that NOT being played on contry music stations was a good thing.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:11 PM on July 10, 2005

Jerry Lewis is an American icon, and one of the last true Hollywood/entertainment "living legends." His MDA telethons are a worthy cause on their own, but they also provide a temporary link to entertainment's past -- very good.
posted by davidmsc at 8:16 PM on July 10, 2005

The spectacle of Lewis, sweating and weeping, begging for the folks out there to fork over enough bucks to save "my kids" has long struck many observers as distasteful and demeaning. "My kids cannot go in the workplace," he says in a typical appeal. "There's nothing they can do. They've been attacked by a vicious killer. I'm begging for their survival!" Such pity-mongering has seemed especially anachronistic since the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect last summer. A ground breaking anti-discrimination law that reflects the current emphasis on mainstreaming the disabled, the A.D.A. promotes the idea of integrating them into the workplace and helping people lead productive lives rather than segregating them as objects of charity.


"I think Jerry Lewis was a fine comedian," says Frieda Zames, a retired college math professor who is vice president of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York. "He just doesn't understand our problem with telethons. I think he doesn't have a clue. I don't think he's a malicious man; he's so sure of himself he just doesn't realize that what we're trying to say might have some merit. But it's very hard for us to function in the world with this image of disabled people he puts before the public. We're trying to become part of society. Disabled people want jobs, want to be part of the community, want to participate. And at some point we have to say we can't be put down in order to get what we should have. It's not a fair exchange to say you have to lose your dignity in order to get the appliances you need."

Eat it up jonmc. There is a word for people like you too
posted by milkwood at 9:30 PM on July 10, 2005

Actually, believe it or not, Lewis has been doing televised charity work for quite a bit longer than 40 years: he started in 1951, when Jerry and Dino, in an episode of their very popular show "The Colgate Comedy Hour," made a brief on-air announcement about the newly founded MDA. The tactic worked, and they made it a recurring feature of the show.
The first full-scale telethon occurred, I believe, in 1952: a fundraiser for the NY Cardiac Hospital; Martin and Lewis were allowed to earmark about 5 percent for a charity of their choosing, and they selected the MDA. Airing on WNBT in New York, the 16.5-hour broadcast featured Jackie Gleason, Phile Silvers, Henny Youngman, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Milton Berle, and all kinds of others. It raised $1.15 million from a NYC audience alone, of which about $68,000 went to the MDA.

(Paraphrased/plagiarized from Shawn Levy's excellent bio of Lewis, King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, pp. 139-141, which I really can't recommend highly enough.)

I should note, for whatever reason, that I am a huge Jerry Lewis fan, and that he figures very prominently in the dissertation that I just completed. He is a major, major figure in comedy: the most important of the second half of the 20th century, no question about it. And an incredibly gifted filmmaker - no one had an eye for composition like he did. Really. See The Ladies Man for proof.

He's also a bastard, of course, and, I have it on good authority, rather insane. His work for the MDA is patronizing, it's true, but it's also immensely valuable. It is inappropriate, I think, to have anything but strong opinions on Jerry Lewis. His life and work demand it.

I spoke with him once, on the phone, when I requested an interview. He never granted it, alas - it would've been very interesting to speak with him. Still, he was not rude about it - just busy.

Jerry Lewis is a force of nature. The guy's incredible, in every sense of the word.

milkwood: Hey, man, cool down. Not worth working yerself into a froth about. Seriously.

I came to this link from the MeTa post which condemns this, and other FPPs, for being especially useless, for the fact that it's anticipatory newsfilter. To which I say, meh. An interesting topic is an interesting topic. And Jerry Lewis is and will always be an interesting topic.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:08 PM on July 10, 2005

And an incredibly gifted filmmaker

Does that include The Day the Clown Cried?
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:46 PM on July 10, 2005

Oriole Adams: If I could see just one "lost" movie, it wouldn't be Greed or the original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, or anything like that. It would be The Day the Clown Cried. Supposedly, a better-than-rough cut exists, locked in Jerry's vault in Vegas or wherever. From what I know about him, it seems pretty damn likely that it will never ever see the light of day.

Thanks for linking to that site - I hadn't seen it in a while. Good to know it's still out there.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:55 PM on July 10, 2005

Thanks Dr. Wu. I'm ok now. Sorry about the froth too. I think you may have overstated his importance, but I share many of your opinions of Lewis. I think he is vastly underrated as an actor - "That's my boy" is one of my favourite movies and his performance is masterful. If you read the article I linked to I think you'll agree that Leslie Bennetts destroys Lewis, but mostly by simply quoting him to reveal his hubris and arrogance. ie

"even though they apparently don't take it out on the water very often. For J.L., just sitting there at the dock seems to be enough. "You can't explain boat people," he tells me with a lofty shrug"


"To some, such shifts reflect the tyranny of political correctness, and it is possible to view Jerry Lewis as its casualty. On the other hand, it is hard to dispute that routinely defining an entire class of people as childlike, dependent victims might affect the dignity and respect they are accorded in the workplace. Moreover, Lewis continues to make inflammatory pronouncements. If you found out you had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, "you might as well put a gun in your mouth," he said on the 1991 telethon--a statement that hardly improves societal attitudes toward people who continue to lead productive lives despite that diagnosis."

He truly comes across as a man who is desperately fighting to maintain an image that no one cares about.
posted by milkwood at 10:57 PM on July 10, 2005

Oh, he's definitely an arrogant, tasteless prick - no doubt about it. He has few peers in that department.
He also - in my opinion, as well as in the opinions of such people as Woody Allen - has few peers in the areas of performing comedy (his gifts for timing, verbal/vocal comedy, physical comedy, and the combination of pathos and humor are incredible) and staging comedy (again: The Ladies Man, specifically the scenes in the "dollhouse" set, which I've shown in my intro to film class on "mise-en-scène day"; as well as the opening scene of the otherwise pretty dreary The Family Jewels; and, of course, most of The Nutty Professor). He's one of a kind.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:09 PM on July 10, 2005

I was able to go on air at the telethons as a kid. my father was fire chief and we'd spend all weekend collecting money in fire boots. we'd bring in all the cash and change into the local station on a stretcher. great stuff :-)
posted by trinarian at 12:04 AM on July 11, 2005


What you said. Or did you say it? Was your first paragraph an old pull quote that you forgot to "" or has the Americans with Disabilities Act been beaten so badly in the courts that you didn't know it was a 15 year old law? (It passed in 1990, was implemented in 1992).

I won't comment on his acting/comedic talent, I can't watch him...too disgusting. There are ways to raise money that don't oppress and patronize an entire group of people, not to mention the amount of misinformation he spews about MD to the public. I cringe to think of the little kid at home with MD who channel surfs on to the telethon and and is told that all people like her are going to die (untrue) and their life is not worth living anyway.

The cause is worthy not because they have MD in and off itself, but because too many children in this country who have long-term medical needs have no health insurance or inadequate coverage. He could do much more for "his kids" by raising awareness and promoting the political issues which oppress and marginalize people with disabilities.

This always makes me laugh: "If you don't want to by pitied, stay in your house!"

Crazy Bastard.
posted by Bueller at 1:20 AM on July 11, 2005

No comedian since Charles Chaplin has been so loved and so reviled. Not a fair parallel. Chaplin was loved for his comedy, and reviled (by some) for being a communist and (by many) for being a bastard. Opinions about Chaplin's comedy haven't changed, however - it's still universally admired. Lewis's comedic star has dimmed considerably.
posted by QuietDesperation at 1:29 AM on July 11, 2005

Thanks Bueller, That says it all. It is a modern day Greek tragedy that has unfolded. Washed up star finds a gig that gives him some exposure, and then turns into a big money and kudos spinner for him. Then the very people who he is trying to help, the INGRATES!!!! turn on him because the way he raises money and salvages his career and reputation is by infantilizing them and painting them as hopeless and worthless. I just love his reaction to them when some of the very intelligent and worthwhile "victims" slowly realize he is working for himself, and that they are merely props. The hatred is just amazing. His ignorance is utterly astounding, and tells you all you need to know about him as a person.
posted by milkwood at 4:20 AM on July 11, 2005

We can kill the messenger all we want. Doesn't change the facts. In summary, because these facts cannot be said enough:

Lewis invented an industry standard now called the video assist. He starred in over fifty films, and directed several more. He's an international icon and history will remember him as one of the greatest comedic minds of the twentieth century. When France hates the rest of America, they still love Jerry Lewis. That alone says something.

Lewis put his name and fame to a cause that is without argument intensely worthy of attention, and brought international attention to it for almost half a century, that would not have occurred without his involvement. Whatever his personal reasons and whether or not he's the ideal pied piper, his positive efforts (despite his shortcomings) have helped more people than can be easily counted, and encouraged the medical industry to make strides in several fields including genetics, health care, and the engineering of prosthetics, wheelchairs and other equipment. Even socio-political acceptance of the rights of the handicapped have to tip their hat to his efforts.

Is he a crazy bastard? a prick? Arrogant? Insane? Desperately fighting to maintain an image? Damn straight. All that and more. We can call him names, insult his demeanor, even make rude references about his mother. History will remember him as a great humanitarian. Would if only we each could aspire to his mad greatness. I only wish when I die, ripe bastards could stand on my grave and piss on it saying I was a crazy prick but I saved lives and improved humanity's quality of life. I'll be lucky if a dog bothers to pee on my grave.

The Jersey born boy made good, and no bile we throw at his life's work will change that.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:26 AM on July 11, 2005

Eat it up jonmc. There is a word for people like you too

inbred? You got a right purty mouth, milkwood.
posted by jonmc at 6:25 AM on July 11, 2005

When France hates the rest of America, they still love Jerry Lewis. That alone says something. The French love Lewis because he is an auteur -- he eventually aspired to control everything: script, casting, music, etc. Just the thing they loved about Chaplin. That's what gets the French's juices going. However, in appreciating Lewis's methods they seemed to have overlooked his final product, which, with a few exceptions, is insipid.
posted by QuietDesperation at 8:31 AM on July 11, 2005

The French love Lewis because he is an auteur -- he eventually aspired to control everything: script, casting, music, etc.

Lewis persevered despite obstacles and learned many things along the way. He never gave up.

Ironically, France values this.
posted by hal9k at 9:17 AM on July 11, 2005

All right, 'fess up. How many of you used to call in and pledge money just so you could hear your name on TV?

Um, not that I ever did that or anything...
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:24 AM on July 11, 2005

The French love Lewis because he is an auteur

yes but not just because of that -- no, they loved him -- as did the Italians, the Germans, etc -- way before he started directing. just one example -- Godard in the mid-Fifties writing that Artists and Models was like Flaubert:
"No film could be more devastating, more bitter in its humor, more brackish, with the richness of the invention constantly aggravated by the poverty of the situations". It is, in other words, an acme of stupidity, but an acme in the same sense as Bouvard and Pécuchet."
posted by matteo at 2:53 PM on July 11, 2005

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