RIP Jerry Lewis (1926 - 2017)

Born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, Lewis first rose to fame in his 20s, shortly after World War II, with his nightclub act opposite crooner Dean Martin, who played the unflappable straight man to Lewis's antics.

"I look at the world through a child's eyes because I'm nine", he told Reuters in 2002. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy's absolute! Martin "had people whispering earnestly in his ear that Jerry was holding him back from greater things, and Jerry had sycophants giving him similar advice". (Years later, Harry Shearer, having seen a rough cut the late 1970s, described it in Spy magazine as "drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy... wildly misplaced.) Throughout the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s, Lewis' credits as actor, writer and director were sparse". Many critics interpreted the plot as a reflection of Lewis's hard relationship with Martin, though it can also be read as an inquisition into Lewis's own insecurities.

Lewis' agent confirmed the news to Variety.

By 15 he had dropped out of high school to pursue a career in show business, though he soon found it more hard than he'd expected, working as a theater usher to make ends meet.

As with any star in Hollywood Lewis had his ups and downs throughout his career. "It's a wonderful place to be", he explained, according to the BBC.

He and Dean Martin were partners as the hit popular comedy duo of Martin and Lewis. The comedy team went their seperate ways after a falling out in 1956. In 1953, he got involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and launched the MDA telethon.

He served as host when it first aired in 1966 and by the time he stepped down in 2010 the event raised hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit the muscular dystrophy association.

Lewis was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for his efforts. "He was not a quitter", she said. He also suffered from Type 1 diabetes and battled pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease. "Very sad to report entertainment legend #JerryLewis has died today at 9:15 his home in Las Vegas", he wrote. He had six sons with singer Patti Palmer, including Gary of the rock group Gary Lewis and the Playboys. He also adopted a daughter with his second wife, SanDee Pitnick.

  • Jacqueline Ellis