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Jerry LewisThe year is 1973. And this is the same date that: (1) Elvis performed a concert in Hawaii. (2) President Richard Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. (3) U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accord. (4) Tottenham Hotspur won the Football League Cup. And (5) Dick spoke to Jerry. Yes. That’s right. Dick Cavett and Jerry Lewis. As seen in this 70 minute interview.

Dick Cavett - Jerry Lewis

Dick Cavett starts off his show with his usual jovial blue-card question and answer session. Before introducing onto the stage someone he once worked for many a year ago, Jerry Lewis.

Now in fine form Jerry takes to the stage where both he and Dick have a little chat together about 'old times'. Giving Dick the opening he needs to commence his informal / formal interview with this actor / comedian / director / and one time partner of Rat-Pack legend, Dean Martin.

These questions include: (1) His feelings about film – mixed. (2) How he feels about his age [46] – with his hands. (3) What he reads into his own comedy – too much. Plus (5) His own instinctive and seeming improvisational skills – perfectionist. In turn, Jerry answers these questions to the best of his ability. Some times his reply is buffoonish in flavor. Other times his response is serious in tone. But he always responds with honesty and integrity, with an additional amount of humanistic fervor added to the mix.

Please note, on two separate occasions during this show, Dick plays vintage clips of Jerry from the film, 'The Bellboy' (1960). And on top of that, the audience also join in too, posing sporadic questions to Jerry, ones that are associated with his family – his work for charity – his inspirations – plus what type of products he uses on his hair.

Obviously, Dick persists in his line of questions also, and he starts to learn a little bit more about the man behind the funny face. Film critiques – movie production – academia – literature – his split with Dean Martin – his family background – and his leanings toward multi-faceted and knowledgeable pursuits. All of these topics Jerry has been praised for and criticized for in the past. However, Jerry being the type of man that he is, tries to give added dimension to the replies that he gives, and why he is replying it.

Here are some of the quotes taken from this program:
  • I enjoy all the the characters I perform. 
  • Hi girly. Like Chocolate?
  • Impersonate Dick? No. I'm too tall
  • I think any man who gets up and does comedy deserves the heavy-weight title.
  • I am a Jewish target for people to throw darts at. 
  • I wanted to be a dermatologist, but I don't like derms. 
  • I was a star over night. It took me 37 years.

When I was a kid, I first heard the name 'Jerry Lewis' in conjunction with another persons name, 'Dean Martin'. Well, my Dad was a big 'Rat Pack' fan you see, and he would on occasion mention 'Dean-o-Latino's' collaboration with some funny faced loon called Jerry. However, it wasn't until one day, when I sat down and watched the original 'Nutty Professor', that found out who this funny man actually was.

"What a nut!" I thought to myself. Quickly following it up with "I want to be a nut too" before sauntering all over the place, making funny baby noises with my mouth, whilst pulling funny faces with my face. Yep. That is correct. I'm a nut that likes nuts. Or to be more precise about it. A nut with more than one facet to his shell.

Jerry Lewis The Nutty Professor

You see, after watching this interview with Jerry Lewis, I have grown to respect him more than I did previously. Granted, I was a fan of his before watching this show. Nonetheless, through his words and his charming way of speaking, I could not help but admire a man who is such a class comedy act.

Whenever Dick posed a question to him of a ‘negative nature’. Jerry’s reply was always’ seemingly garnished with a humble and poignant prose. Even when speaking about how he would feel if he saw Dean Martin again (after their long and troublesome split) his words were not blatant or showy in any way. Rather, more meaningful and honest. Signifying this with a very cleaver analogy of sorts.

To juxtapose this type of response though, on occasion, Jerry could not help but to pull a funny face, or yelp a funny sound, as if something inside him had a need to give more to the audience. Just to entertain them. And Jerry being Jerry, he admitted this fact during his interview.

Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin

However, he does not give this type of 'motivations' or 'instinctive nature' an origin to justify why he likes clowning about. Jerry is a obviously product of his time, and this shows in his hard-line work ethic – his need for perfection – as well as the way that he defines himself by his own principles. Also, Jerry admits that he can be wrong at times – as reflected when he is talking about the critiques that he respects.

Still, in the same breath, just like the way he juxtaposes his style of reply, Jerry does not seem to tolerate incompetent people or people with narrow minded views – as also reflected when he is talking about the critiques that he does not respects.

Overall, I found this interview between Jerry and Dick a very entertaining one indeed. I learnt about the man. I learnt about his ways. And in the process I learnt about a time too.

Jerry Lewis


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