Jerry Lewis is a Jewish American comedian, actor, singer, producer, screenwriter and director.
He was born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New
Jersey to a family of actors. Lewis
began his acting career performing in a burlesque in 1942, at the age
In 1946, at the age of 20, Lewis began working closely
with singer Dean Martin as the 'Martin and Lewis' comedy team. By the
late 1940s, both men had risen to national fame, first with their popular
nightclub act and then as film stars. The team became huge in successful
film such as At War with the Army (1951) and Hollywood or
Bust (1956). They continued to perform together, until their split
in 1956, which created a long standing feud between the men. It was
not until the late 1980s, after Martin’s son died, that the two
In 1957, Lewis returned as a solo act with his debut
film The Delicate Delinquent. In 1960, he produced, directed,
co-wrote with Bill Richmond, and starred in his own movie, The Bellboy.
Lewis went on to direct several more films which he co-wrote with Richmond,
including The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, and The Nutty
Professor. Lewis was Hollywood's highest paid film actor in the 1960's. After a long absence from film, Lewis returned in the
early 1980s with Hardly Working, a film he both directed and
starred in. Then in 1983, he made a critically acclaimed performance
in Martin Scorsese’s film The King of Comedy. During the
1990s, Lewis continued doing work in small films.
In 1966, Lewis began hosting an annual Labor Day Telethon
for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a role which he held for over 40 years. In 1977, he became the only comic ever nominated for
a Nobel Peace Prize and in 1985, he received a United States Department
of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. In March 2006, the
French Minister of Culture awarded Lewis the ‘Legion of Honor.’ Lewis received the National Association of Broadcaster's Distinguished Service Award in April 2015.
Lewis is a life-long philanthropist, and has raised over $2 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Charity, Jerry's Kids.