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    Jerry Lewis: (1926-2017)

    Jerry Lewis, whose geeky, high-strung brand of humor starting in the late 1940s made him a national sensation and early TV star while still in his 20s, and whose seemingly ad-libbed routines as a befuddled jerk in '60s films influenced several generations of improv comics, died on Aug. 20. He was 91.


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    I was never a huge fan. His nerdy, screechy comedy bits with Dean Martin always seemed grating and juvenile (a generational thing?), and most of his movies with Martin were consistently dreadful. Yet somehow, Lewis managed to connect with both parents and teens well into the 1960s at a time when the generations were at each other's throats. His finest moment on screen (other than his tireless efforts to raise lots of money for good causes) was his role in The King of Comedy, in which he pretty much played himself.

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    For me, Lewis excelled when his comedy was combined with his physical agility and love for jazz, especially Count Basie's band. Lewis also had an uncanny ability to see the absurdity of everyday products and situations. When his material was great, his timing and silliness could reach a fever pitch. In this regard, his delivery had the rhythm of a drummer, an instrument he could play well.

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    To illustrate the best of Lewis, here are eight of my favorite clips...

    Here's Jerry Lewis in Cinderfella (1960) miming Count Basie's Cute...

    Here's Lewis in the ball scene from Cinderfella with Anna Maria Alberghetti and Count Basie...

    Here's Lewis in The Errand Boy (1961) miming Basie's Blues in Hoss's Flat...

    Here's Lewis in The Nutty Professor (1963), with Les Brown's band...

    Here's Lewis learning German in Which Way to the Front (1970)...

    Here's Lewis with the Treniers in 1954...

    Here's Lewis again in The Errand Boy...

    And here's Lewis conducting Count Basie's band performing April in Paris during his 1980 Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon...

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