Talking With The 'King of Comedy,' Jerry Lewis


The following is my interview with Jerry Lewis who was touring in "Damn Yankees" 21 years ago. He died today at the age of 91.

BOSTON — Jerry Lewis wants to leave 'em laughing, so he ends a press conference with a joke.

It's Buffalo. It's winter. It's 34 degrees below zero. And this man ensconced in his warm living room with a fireplacehears a knock at the door.

He goes to the door and opens it. He looks around, and there's no one there. He looks down. There's a snail.


The snail says, ``Do you have any idea how cold it is out here? Could I come in to get warm?''

The man looks at the snail, and he says, ``Are you nuts?'' And he kicks him way across the lawn.

Two years pass.

There's a knock at the door. He opens the door. There's the snail, who looks up at him and says, ``What the hell was that all about?''


The press corps that packs the Boston hotel room roars at the story (passed on to Lewis from comic writer Larry Gelbart). But there's more than appreciation of a joke well told. There's affection for the man telling it, too.

At the age of 70, and with 65 years in show business behind him, Jerry Lewis no longer feels like the snail.

This day he's the king of comedy, a Broadway baby and one happy devil -- eager to promote the touring production of ``Damn Yankees,'' which will play the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven for two weeks beginning Tuesday. (The original show had its world premiere at the Shubert in 1955.)