Monday August 21, 2017

Exploring the many sides of comedy legend Jerry Lewis

22nd April 1971:  American comedian and film star Jerry Lewis with a model of the 'Jerry Lewis Cinema'.

22nd April 1971: American comedian and film star Jerry Lewis with a model of the 'Jerry Lewis Cinema'. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Listen 12:12

Dick Gregory wasn't the only comedy legend we lost this weekend. 

Less than 24 hours after the news of Gregory's death hit, it was announced that Jerry Lewis was gone, too. Lewis died on Sunday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91. 

He was a complex figure in the history of comedy. Lewis was a huge box office star, loved by audiences for his slapstick creations like The Nutty Professor. But he was scorned by some critics for humour they saw as juvenile. Meanwhile in France, he was hailed as a genius by high-brow filmmakers like Jean Luc-Godard, who said Lewis was much better than Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. 

Lewis had a soft side that was on display in his annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons, which he said raised over $2 billion over the years. But he also had a reputation for being difficult and demanding with journalists and collaborators.

There were a lot of sides to Jerry Lewis. And today on our show, comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff discusses the many aspects of Lewis's long career. 

— Produced by Chris Trowbridge