To know me is to know that I have an unhealthy appreciation–some would say obsession–with Jerry Lewis. He’s the comedian I connected with when I was a kid and for whatever reason, his comedy has never lost its effect on me. Yes, I know he can be a jerk, but one needs to make exceptions for genius (yes, genius…try to image the direction mid-20th century comedy might have taken without the influence of Martin & Lewis and Jerry on his own). The Nutty Professor would be legacy enough for any comedian without even mentioning that he invented the video assistant system for motion picture directors (that’s the system that makes a videotape of the scene shot by the film camera so a director can immediately see the results; Jerry came up with it so he could direct himself) but, it’s not my job to make excuses for him.

Apparently Hollywood has decided to stop making excuses for him, too and, at last, the 83-year old Jerry received his long overdue Oscar, this in the form of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his more than 50 years work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for which he has helped raised over $2 billion since 1966.

Bravo, Jerry!

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5 Comments on "What’ll You Have, Hmmmmm?"

  1. rob! says:

    Time for a new comic from DC!

  2. Rusty says:

    I’m reading, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon.” Zevon was a Genius. Yet he wasted much of his life being a drug addict and later an OCD Sex Addict. He was needlessly cruel to the people who cared for him the most. And he was enabled by the notion that he was a “Tortured Genius,” so he should be allowed to torture the rest of the world too. Bull shit.

    Geniuses should not get special dispensation for being assholes. Being a self-centered jerk is not a prerequisite to being a genius. I offer up Fred Rogers as a counter-example of the Modest/Good Guy/Genius.

    Lewis is a Genius. No arguments from me. And Lewis deserves every Oscar the Academy will give him. If they want to start with his humanitarian work, good for them and good for Lewis! Even though Lewis is a comic Genius, it’s his humanitarian work that will remain his greatest legacy.

    But I question the syllogism that every genius should also be allowed to be a jerk.

  3. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    As sure as people are that the tobacco companies already have brand names and ad campaigns ready to go the MOMENT pot gets legalized, so too am I conveinced that there are companies ready to offer insane amounts of money to his estate for The Day the Clown Cried.

  4. Paul Kupperberg says:

    I don’t think being an asshole is a prerequisite for genius, but it seems to be there’s usually an emotional price to pay for most people who are geniuses, whether it’s self-destructive behavior or destructive behavior turned outward. The trick is separating the man from the work.

    And how do we know Fred Rogers didn’t go home at night and dissect the Watchtower ladies he’d grab when they came to his door?

  5. Rusty says:

    There is an emotional price to being human. You can substitute the words “drug addict,” “mother,” “gay,” “autistic” or practically any other descriptor of the human condition for “genius” and make the claim that there is an emotional price connected with that. That’s no excuse for poor behavior.

    I’m sure Fred Rogers had his moments of being a jerk. But if there are skeletons in his closet, I doubt that they belong to Watchtower Ladies. He was himself an ordained Minister.

    When it comes to being a creative artist (be it actor, musician, writer, performer or painter), I think our lives reflect our work and vice versa. Again, you can say that about nearly anybody, but it is particularly evident in the creative arts.

    I don’t take as much pleasure in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” or “Hannah and Her Sisters,” now that I see them filtered through the lens of Woody’s abusive relationships with Mia Farrow and her children. The work doesn’t change. But I get less pleasure from it simply because I have less respect for Mr. Allen. There are strange resonances that can occur between an artist’s life and their work, and sometimes painful dissonance.

    Should Chris Brown or R. Kelly’s personal behavior affect how I hear their songs? Maybe not. But it does.

    We can all be jerks. We all deserve second and third chances. And being a genius does have it’s unique challenges. I’m just saying that being a genius (or famous or wealthy or influential) doesn’t also give you the right to be a jerk. It just gives you greater opportunities. The opportunity to do great humanitarian works (like Jerry Lewis) or the opportunity to make an huge ass of yourself (like Woody Allen).

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