Jerry Lewis
By: Robert Wringham | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Popular

jerry lewis

At age five, JERRY LEWIS (born 1926) mimed to opera records as part of a vaudeville family act. In 1945, he and Dean Martin paired up as a comedy duo. Quickly earning a reputation as great ad-libbers and masters of the the now-classic straight man/foil dynamic, they moved into pictures. But Martin felt he was playing second fiddle to the internationally adored, show-stopping Lewis — Look magazine cut Dino out of a cover photo for which the two had posed — and they split. Lewis went on to make slapstick classics like The Errand Boy (1960) and The Nutty Professor (1963), approaching these films — which often used the straight man/foil dynamic, Lewis’s inept characters up against authority — not just as a career comic but writing, directing, and producing them too. The fixation among his fans and film historians on his unreleased 1975 Holocaust movie The Day the Clown Cried is a kind of testament to Lewis’s well-earned appeal as a filmmaker. Since then, he has satirised his fame and the comedy industry at large in King of Comedy (1983) and Funny Bones (1995). In his memoir, Dean and Me: A Love Story, Lewis concludes that “people hate me because I am a multifaceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius.”

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HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Flavor Flav, René Daumal.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).

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Robert Wringham is a writer and performer who lives in Montreal, Quebec; and Glasgow, Scotland. His first degree is in Psychology and his second is in Library and Information Studies. He's the editor of New Escapologist: a magazine for bored employees with escape on the brain. His first book is jovially titled You Are Nothing.