COMMENTARY | When I first heard the news that Jerry Lewis was not going to host this year’s telethon for his kids, I assumed it was health-related. Lewis has had his share of medical problems. Unfortunately, though, the comedian did not have a choice in the matter: He has been unceremoniously ousted by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The 85-year-old comedian stated in May that he would be retiring as the host of the telethon but planned on being a part of the upcoming 2011 show and would continue to be the MDA’s national chairman. Well, not according to the MDA. No, after all these years, Jerry lost custody of “his kids.”
Jerry Lewis poured his life into this organization. Without him, few would know the disease or would have ever given money to the cause. He threw it in our collective faces every year, taking over TV sets across the nation. From 1966, Lewis pleaded for money from the public and managed to raise billions for the cause. That is success.
I grew up watching Jerry Lewis, his wacky movies and the star-studded telethon. Funny that with this next statement I am going to show my age, but back when there were only a few choices on TV, the telethon was an excuse to actually leave the set on for more than a half hour at a time. Now the telethon is competing with reality shows galore. Marathon showings of anything and everything, even “The Nutty Professor” and the like. At any hour of the day or night I can pick up my remote and find something odd to watch, not then.
Like the characters in “Grumpy Old Men,” or Dr. House himself, Lewis said what he thought. You could never accuse him of being politically correct. Over the years, the abrasive comedian has managed to offend several different groups with his shockingly controversial statements, the most recent being “American Idol.”
Last week during a press conference, Lewis declared his hatred for the show and the contestants, calling them “McDonald’s wipeouts” He also threw “The Biggest Loser” under the bus, reports The Associated Press. And what do you know? Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of “Idol,” and Alison Sweeney, the host of “Loser,” are the telethon co-hosts. In my opinion, this is the end of the telethon as we know it.
The shortened telethon will no longer be the same without Jerry Lewis. While he may have made mistakes, Lewis stood in the gap for sufferers of MD for the long haul. I hope his wish comes true and a cure for the disease is found in his lifetime. His dedication deserves a better ending.