Friday, April 19, 2024

Exclusive: Jerry Lewis Rates Late Night Hosts: “Colbert Should Work at Tiffany’s”


More from my hilarious interview with Jerry Lewis last week at the Museum of the Moving Image. Jerry had been interviewed earlier by his “The King of Comedy” director and old friend Martin Scorsese. Remember Jerry played Jerry Langford, a Johnny Carson-like talk show host in “The King of Comedy” who is kidnapped by Robert DeNiro and Sandra Bernhard.

Lewis, by the way, regularly guest hosted for Carson back in the day. He told me once did a six week stint for Johnny. When was that, I wondered?

“When Johnny went to have a sex change,” Lewis snapped back with glee. He is 89 and faster than you or I will ever be. Listening to him with Scorsese reminded me of the last time I saw Milton Berle perform– at Denise Rich’s famous original Angel Ball at the Sheraton circa 1999-2000. Berle was over 90, I think. I don’t know if anyone recorded it, but his 15 minutes at the podium were historic.

Lewis’s talk with Scorsese– which I hope will be available soon– was both insightful about filmmaking and wildly funny.

Backstage last week at MMI, I asked Jerry if he ever watches the new crop of late night talk show hosts.

Do you watch Jimmy Fallon?
He’s going to be very very strong.
I don’t watch Kimmel.
Letterman, I watched as much as I could
Do you miss Letterman?
No. No. [But] I liked him.
He should work at Tiffany’s.
Why, Jerry?
Because he’s dull.
Really? You don’t think Colbert is funny at all?
I think he’s very good. He’s very good. But you can’t take someone and place them in a spot that was excellence. He’s got a tough row to hoe, boy.
Is it fun being 90?
When I get there I’ll tell you.
When do you turn 90?
In March
Is it fun being 89?
Yeah! Everyday some thing new is broke!

One last thing: filmmakers revere Lewis’s 1971 book “The Total Filmmaker.” Random House published it, and it now out of print. Someone there should bring it back with a new foreword by Scorsese. Just sayin’….

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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