Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin formed one of the most dynamic and beloved duos in entertainment history.
We were duo-crazy then, but the names Martin and Lewis will forever share the marquee with other greats – Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
As much as anything, though, Lewis will be remembered for his humanitarianism, hosting a grueling Labor-Day telethon for Muscular Dystrophy from 1966-2010 that raised what The New York Times could only call “vast sums”: around $2 billion.
He made the difficult-to-say disease harder to forget, and in the day of few television channel choices, his unpredictable, celebrity-laden telethons – which also prompted competitive backyard benefits across America – were must-see TV.
After Martin and Lewis’ 10-year run of stage and screen acts ended in 1956, Lewis proved during a long solo career that he had enough dynamism for two, enough personalities for an acting troupe and seemingly enough lives for a roomful of cats.
He became one of those rare talents that changed the craft he was plying, in the process inspiring untold aspiring comics from multiple generations to be “the next Jerry Lewis.”
There’ll never be another.