Skip to main content

Jerry Lewis Remembered

Comedian Jerry Lewis, 91, died Aug. 20 at his home in Las Vegas.

While mostly known as a film comedian, Lewis was also a periodic TV staple as host of the annual Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethon.

"Jerry Lewis was more than a comic icon. He was also a world class humanitarian whose charitable work on behalf of children with Muscular Dystrophy will stand the test of time," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "NAB joins with the thousands of 'Jerry's Kids' who mourn the loss of this uniquely gifted and giving entertainment industry  legend."

"Jerry Lewis kept us all laughing for over half a century, and his incredible charity work touched the lives of millions," said the White House in a statement late Sunday (Aug. 20). "Jerry lived the American Dream—he truly loved his country, and his country loved him back.  Our thoughts are with his family today as we remember the extraordinary life of one of our greatest entertainers and humanitarians.  Thank you, Jerry.  You will be missed."

The association posted a tribute video to Lewis on its web site Sunday. He hosted the telethon  for 45 years, from 1966 through 2010.

Lewis was the recipient of the National Association of Broadcasters 2015 Distinguished service award. Lewis was cited for his 1,380 hours on television across 61 years and the children who benefited from his telethon, which also famously reunited Lewis with his former partner, Dean Martin, after decades of estrangement.

"MDA would not be the organization it is today if it were not for Jerry’s tireless efforts on behalf of 'his kids,' said the Muscular Dystrophy Association. "His enthusiasm for finding cures for neuromuscular disease was matched only by his unyielding commitment to see the fight through to the end. Jerry’s efforts on the annual MDA Telethon transformed the broadcast into an American tradition each Labor Day weekend for 45 years."

Rose Marie, a former child star who played Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke show, tweeted:

Jerry Lewis was an angel to me. Loved him & will never forget what he did for me during one of the worst times in my life. RIP, Love Roe

— Rose Marie-Official (@RoseMarie4Real) August 20, 2017

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.