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The Jerry Lewis Holiday Weekend September 3, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies, Television.

For my entire life, there has been a Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon every Labor Day weekend. It’s become an expected annual event that marks time, no different than the Christmastime broadcast of Rudolph The Red Nosed-Reindeer or the way ABC trots out The Ten Commandments every Passover.

I miss the days when Jerry’s age and health permitted him to emcee the vast majority of the show. Back in the day when all of his Rat Packer buds were still around and would show up, it all gave off the vibe of the martini drinkin’ Fedora hatted suit set doing their stint for charity before returning to the daily grind of nailing Vegas cocktail waitresses two at a time. This would leave Jerry time to pace the Sahara stage around 3AM to rant about how the Hollywood studio chiefs wouldn’t give him a deal anymore, and much like the telethon itself, somehow I feel this also became an American institution of sorts.

I went searching for clips of stuff like that just now, but all I came up with was this guy’s tribute site, which has a great clip from 1977 of Johnny Carson telling Bert Lance jokes. When you need Wikipedia to get the jokes, it’s what we like to call “topical humor.”

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Lewis’ comedies. This guy seems to like them, but I guess they’re just not my personal taste, which might also explain why I’ve never been ga-ga over Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey for that matter. The whole annoyingly-loud-man/child schtick doesn’t work for me. On the other hand, I thought Lewis was excellent in The King of Comedy and in the look-for-it-on-video-right-now-’cause-it’s-really-good Funnybones. And he always gave Kathleen Freeman work in his films, and years ago I went to her estate sale after she passed away and discovered that she was a fan of classic board games from the number of them for sale there, which made me like her more.

And from what I read, Jerry’s telethon has raised nearly $2 billion since 1966 and the vast majority goes to the day-to-day services needed by the victims of the disease.

So give him a hug, Dean!


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