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Jerry Lewis Biography

Joseph Levitch, 16 March 1926, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Born into a showbusiness family, Lewis was intermittently on-stage from the age of five and in his mid-teens had become a professional comedian and mimic. In 1946 he teamed up with Dean Martin, for whom Lewis has expressed great admiration. Their double act clicked instantly and they were soon one of the hottest showbusiness duos of the era. Between 1949 and 1956 they made several films, headlined numerous radio and television shows, and toured the USA performing a stand-up-comic and song act at clubs and other venues. In their routines, Lewis provided the zany and often anarchic comedy while Martin sang the songs and, in the case of the films, played the romantic lead. Although still hugely popular, personal tensions drove them to break up their act on the night of 24/25 July 1956, while playing at Manhattan’s Copacabana. Coincidentally, that was the tenth anniversary of their first formal appearance as a double act at a nightclub in Atlantic City. Thereafter, Lewis continued to make film comedies and also toured his act in major US casinos and night spots and in Europe.

He also played an occasional dramatic role, notably in King Of Comedy (1983). After the split, Lewis and Martin did not speak to one another until the mid-70s. They remained distant although shortly before Martin’s death in 1995 there was a rapprochement of sorts, recounted in Lewis’ 2005 memoir of their relationship. Lewis made his Broadway debut in 1994 when he took over the key role of Mr. Applegate, the Devil, during the run of a revival of Damn Yankees; he reprised the role in London in 1997. In addition to his activities as a performer Lewis has worked tirelessly for many charitable institutions, notably through his telethons.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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