90-year-old comedy legend Jerry Lewis has made millions laugh for decades with films like “The Nutty Professor,” his comedy partnership with Dean Martin, his stand-up, and loads of other projects.
But he's also famous for being not-so-funny during interviews, very often confrontational, non-cooperative, and brusque with interviewers.
Well, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lewis may have outdone himself in the sourpuss category.
A writer from The Hollywood Reporter sat down with Lewis this week as a part of a series of 10 interviews the publication did about nonagenarians (people in their 90s) who still work in the entertainment industry.
But as young reporter Andy Lewis (no relation) said:
“Nine of the interviews went great. One was a trainwreck.”
The comedy icon started off simply monosyllabic, giving answers to questions with no detail or nuance.
“Have you ever thought about retiring?”
“There was never a moment?”
“You come from a generation a little older, I think of Bob Hope, George Burns, Sinatra.....many of whom didn't retire either. Do you see similarities with them?”
The youthful reporter explained that Jerry Lewis had complained about all the equipment the crew had brought with them and disliked the way they were setting up shots.
This apparently led to the unpredictable legend deciding to “punish THR by doing the interview but being as uncooperative as possible,” as Andy Lewis explains.
Uncooperative is an understatement.
Throughout the seven-minute clip, Jerry Lewis is curt, unpleasant, and extremely tight-lipped to the point where it's hilarious—as long as you don't care about how uncomfortable it must have been for the reporter.
The one moment of insight into Jerry Lewis's heart and soul came when the reporter asked him what his favorite period of time was during his long career, to which the comedian replied, again curtly but with unmistakable sadness:
“When my partner was alive.”
He was, of course, referring to Dean Martin, with whom he collaborated for many years in films, television, and on the Vegas circuit. Martin died in 1995 of lung cancer after refusing treatment, having lived an unrepentant life of hard drinking, heavy smoking, and partying.
But that brief reverie of emotional substance was soon extinguished as the star continue to give one-word answers, and ended the interview by turning away from the camera and loudly demanding “Now clean it out of here!”
As for the reporter, Andy Lewis took it all with grace and a sense of humor, concluding in his piece:
“As awkward and funny — and it's pretty funny — as the interview is, it weirdly proves the point of the entire package: 90-year-old Jerry Lewis is vital and completely engaged. He's just engaged — almost happy — in being difficult.”
Lewis most recently starred in the 2013 drama “Max Rose,” and, as he mentions in the interview, he's working on another starring vehicle for himself.