Jerry Lewis has long been known as one of the toughest interview subjects in the industry, and that hasn’t changed a bit now that he’s 90. Recently, The Hollywood Reporter dispatched poor Andy Lewis (no relation, presumably) to talk to Lewis at his Las Vegas home as a part of a series about nonagenarians who are still active in show business. The legendary comedian and director was taking a few days off from touring and agreed to a photo shoot and a brief one-on-one. Sounds harmless enough.
But the reporter said he “had a bad feeling about how the conversation with Jerry Lewis was going to go.” Those instincts proved dead-on. The comic was visibly impatient and angry that day, answering most of the facile queries with terse, monosyllabic answers.The Hollywood Reporter has dubbed the resulting interview “7 Painfully Awkward Minutes With Jerry Lewis.” In its own way, it’s a superb comic performance, as the comedian shoots down question after question with speed and precision.
Lewis on retirement: “Why?” Lewis on the similarities between him and people like Bob Hope and George Burns: “None.” How is performing different now? “It isn’t.” The interviewer begins grasping at straws at this point, asking the comedian how Vegas has changed since 1947. Lewis: “It’s the same.” How to attract fans to shows? “You tell ‘em you’re playing there, and they show up.” That’s about as verbose as Lewis gets here. He does mention that his favorite era of his career was when he worked Dean Martin. Working on Max Rose was “great,” and Lewis does plan to make another movie. This conversation is a model of incredible theatrical discipline. Lewis never smiles, and the only time he laughs is to do a brief, sarcastic impression of the interviewer.