Jerry Lewis’ abrupt separation from his annual Labor Day telethon is no laughing matter for his fellow funnymen.
Comedians Paul Rodriguez, Larry Miller, Tom Dreesen, Norm Crosby and others have joined in support of Lewis, the 85-year-old “King of Comedy” who the Muscular Dystrophy Association said is no longer its national chairman and will not appear on this year’s telethon. The Tucson, Ariz.-based association announced earlier this week that the organization was parting ways with him after 45 years.
“If this is the way we’re going, we should also tell grandpa we don’t need him for Thanksgiving!” Miller said.
The funnymen told reporters gathered at The Laugh Factory comedy club Friday in Hollywood that they want the MDA to feature Lewis in some capacity on the upcoming telethon. At the very least, they said he deserves a proper send-off on the show he made famous. Rodriguez said Lewis should be brought back in a limo and “given the accolades that he deserves.”
“He’s not dead,” said Rodriguez. “He’s very much alive!”
The comedians said they hadn’t spoken with Lewis since the separation was announced, but Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said they supported Lewis “regardless of why he was dismissed.” Dreesen speculated that the MDA told Lewis that he would be phased out of the telethon, and the group was fearful of what Lewis would say during the six-hour broadcast.
“There’s no way they would give him the microphone for five minutes,” said Dreesen.
MDA spokesman Jim Brown declined to say what prompted the decision.