Jerry Lewis, the man who delighted audiences in films such as The Nutty Professor and raised billions of dollars through his MDA Telethon, died on Sunday, August 20 at the age of 91.
The legendary comedian passed away at his home in Las Vegas after a brief illness according to his publicist.
Lewis rose to fame in his 20’s when he teamed with entertainer Dean Martin for thousands of live performances and 16 movies over a ten year period in the 1940’s and 50’s.
Following the duo’s split, he signed a solo deal with Paramount Pictures that saw him, not only star in but produce and direct comedies such as The Bellboy, The Ladies Man and the previously mentioned Nutty Professor, which was the biggest hit of his career.
Other notable works included Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night, and Max Rose — one of his final films which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
Known for his physical brand of humor, Lewis was an inspiration for countless comedians who followed in his footsteps including Jim Carrey. The Ace Ventura star called Lewis an “undeniable genius” in a tweet on Sunday.
That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy’s absolute! I am because he was! ;^D pic.twitter.com/3Zdq9xhXlE
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) August 20, 2017
Comics young and old echoed Carrey’s sentiments sending love to the fallen icon on Twitter. Among them: Cedric the Entertainer, Dane Cook, Carl Reiner, and Carol Burnett, who phoned into CNN to share her thoughts on Lewis’ legacy.
“He provided belly laughs…he just had that spark of genius,” says actress Carol Burnett of Jerry Lewis https://t.co/1aK5FT8wJa
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) August 20, 2017
So saddened to learn of the passing of Jerry Lewis, a true comic icon. In Boston 1947 I roared at his and Dean’s first ever performance
— carl reiner (@carlreiner) August 20, 2017
Always funny. Always helpful. Always honest. I will miss you Jerry Lewis. The world has lost a true innovator & icon. pic.twitter.com/mJzLbh0VFd
— Dane Cook (@DaneCook) August 20, 2017
— CedricTheEntertainer (@CedEntertainer) August 20, 2017
MDA Labor Day Telethon
Lewis served as a national chairman and spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for half a century and hosted The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon from 1966 until 2010. The annual event has raised over $2.6 billion for the organization.
Jerry Lewis passed today,millions around the world loved him,millions of kids he helped w/his telethons. R.I.P. &condolences 2 his family
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) August 20, 2017
Jerry lived to make the world laugh, and laugh we did for decades. His talent was surpassed only by his humanitarianism. Rest well pal
— Larry King (@kingsthings) August 20, 2017
Jerry Lewis was a comic and philanthropic icon. I send love to his family today.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 20, 2017
Jerry Lewis was a genius comedian, actor, director, inventor, humanitarian and, as a Las Vegan, what I miss most..https://t.co/R0uLkPOwyU
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) August 20, 2017
Recognized throughout the years for both his comedy and philanthropy, Lewis earned France’s Legion of Honor award in 1983 (where his humor was always a hit) and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Academy Awards.
Lewis was married twice and had six children. He is survived by second wife, SanDee Pitnick.