Jerry Lewis is definitely not a yes man. The 90-year-old entertainment legend sat down for a Hollywood Reporter feature on 10 people over age 90 who are still working in show business, but his sit-down stands out. While nine of the nonagenarian interviews, with people like Norman Lear, Dick Van Dyke, and Betty White, went off without a hitch, the chat with Jerry Lewis was beyond awkward.
Jerry Lewis has long had a reputation for being a difficult interview subject, and he certainly gave the Hollywood Reporter reporter a run for his money. Ahead of the seven-minute sit-down, Lewis, a renowned control freak, reportedly complained about the amount of camera equipment that was brought into his Las Vegas home, as well as the number of assistants on hand and how the shots for the accompanying photo shoot were set up. That set the stage for an angry interview — or at least a very difficult one.
Lewis gave a lot of one-word answers in his interview — mostly the word “no.” When asked if he ever considered retiring, Jerry simply said no. When asked if show business has changed in the past 20 years, Jerry said no.
When he was asked how he keeps his material fresh, Lewis deadpanned, “By working at it.”
Jerry Lewis gave this answer when asked how he has managed to maintain steady attendance at his Vegas shows.
“You tell ’em you’re playing there, and they show up.”
While Lewis said that nothing has changed for him when it comes to performing — not even the age of his fans — he did share that the best part of his career was when his “partner was alive.” Lewis didn’t voluntarily say his late comedy partner Dean Martin’s name, but when asked if he was referring to Martin, Jerry just said, “Yup.”
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis pic.twitter.com/9stIe2iyZP— Classic Actors (@ClassicMovieMen) November 10, 2016
Lewis ultimately cut off interviewer Andy Lewis (no relation, by the way) at the end of the chat. When the frustrated THR reporter asked Jerry if there was anything else he wanted to say, the star cut him off with a curt, “No!” You can see the awkward Jerry Lewis interview in the video below.
In addition to his awkward interviews and regular shows in Las Vegas, Jerry Lewis has been keeping busy making movies. In 2013, he starred in the film Max Rose, playing an aging jazz pianist who finds out his wife has been unfaithful to him. Jerry also appeared in the 2016 Nicolas Cage/Elijah Wood cop film The Trust. But while he has worked as an actor, singer, comedian, film producer, Jerry Lewis is best known for his work as a humanitarian. For more than 50 years, Jerry Lewis was the host of the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, which aired live on television every September for decades.
Lewis began hosting the telethon in 1956, and it became an annual Labor Day tradition nearly a decade later. But after raising an estimated $2 billion for “Jerry’s kids,” Jerry Lewis abruptly stopped working with the MDA one month before the 2011 telethon began. According to Time, after 55 years as the organization’s national chairman, Lewis was given his walking papers by the MDA, but in a 2012 interview with a news magazine, Jerry refused to comment on exactly how his departure from the organization played out. MDA officials explained that Lewis simply retired and that his goodbye appearance was scrapped after they could not agree on its format. The long-running Muscular Dystrophy Telethon was officially canceled last year, marking the end of an era.
As for his awkward THR interview, fans may want to give Jerry Lewis a break. At 90-years-old, the Hollywood legend is set in his ways. He’s always been a tough interview, so why change now?
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]