That time Jerry Lewis wished Joan Rivers were dead, speaking on a SiriusXM Town Hall at the Friars Club

Jerry Lewis sat down this week with Maria Menounos at The Friars Club for a SiriusXM Town Hall that airs today, and wouldn’t you know it, Lewis still has a bone to pick with Joan Rivers after all of these years and decades?

Or is a longstanding roast joke?

Either way.

Lewis opened the rift wide once more by saying:

“I always feel bad when somebody passes away. Except if it was Joan Rivers. Then I wouldn’t, no…”

“Nooo, you don’t mean that!” Menounos replied. “You do?”

Lewis nodded.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever made that public statement. I don’t know how it came out.”

Of course, this public statement came out with a lot more intentional planning and foresight than all of his other public statements about women in comedy over the previous decade-and-a-half.

Why Joan?

“She set the Jews back 1,000 years. See, she went to Israel and uprooted two trees in my name.”

The crowd is laughing this whole time, mind you.

“Joan attacked me in the press. All she said was, ‘Jerry Lewis has to be thankful that he has the telethon, because it helps his career. And then she went on and was even a little more salty. So I wrote her a note that night. I said, ‘Dear Ms. Rivers, we’ve never met, and I’m looking forward to keeping it that way. If you find it necessary to discuss me, my career, or my kids ever again, I promise you I will get somebody from Chicago to beat your goddamn head off. Now. P.S. You do know that you’re not allowed to threaten people, so if you go to our group downtown — if you go to Metro — show them this letter, they’ll arrest me. But I want you to never forget what it said. And that was it.”

Um, what now? That was a long time ago.

How do you know when jokes are jokes, when they’re friendly ribbing as in a roast, and when they’re just plain mean and offensive? Menounos asked Lewis to explain himself.

“That comes from your conscience, and from the mental attitude of the individual. That’s where it’s going to come from. Now a lot of people could think the same way but they’ve got to act the same way. You cannot rip someone else apart for doing exemplary work. And if you allow that to happen, then you deserve it.”

Lewis is 88.

Rivers turns 81 on Sunday.

Menounos pressed Lewis on this. His point: You better not joke about Jerry’s Kids! Quick everyone. Go back four decades and take back all of your jokes.

While you do, here’s the clip.

The full SiriusXM Town Hall with Jerry Lewis airs today at 5 p.m. Eastern on Raw Dog Comedy, Ch. 99 and Entertainment Weekly Radio, Ch, 105. With rebroadcasts 3 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday on both channels.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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