People are talking about a new Jerry Lewis interview today, but they’ve completely missed the actual news.
I’ve learned over the years that asking anyone about their own lives and experiences is amazingly educational and oftentimes illuminating and inspiring — asking them for their opinions on current events, much less so. Opinions can change. Opinions can be wrong. Your experience is your truth, though.
So forget what Jerry Lewis thinks about ISIS and The Donald. More importantly, Lewis told Raymond Arroyo in an interview broadcast Dec. 17 on EWTN Global Catholic Network that he DID NOT give the print of his most infamous film to the Library of Congress.
“Everything’s there?” Arroyo asked Lewis. “The Day The Clown Cried?”
“No,” Lewis replied.
Arroyo said he wanted to see Lewis and his artistry on display in it.
“That’s the problem. There was no artistry. And the work was bad. The work wasn’t even – as far as I’m concerned – my critique was, it wasn’t even something you should show to the public. That’s how bad it turned out. Now, my crew, my people, my staff, everyone involved couldn’t believe I was going to smother it – just put it away.”
The Los Angeles Times cited sources in August hinting the Library of Congress had received a negative of the 1972 film Lewis starred and directed in, but never released. But the Library of Congress press release a month later did not list The Day The Clown Cried anywhere in its new holdings gifted by Lewis.
Earlier in the hourlong interview with Arroyo, Lewis talked about how his Vaudevillian parents first brought him onstage at the age of 5, his early days with Dean Martin — and that dramatic reunion with him during the 1976 MDA Telethon (after 20 years of not even speaking to one another) — creating Video Assist in the 1950s, and his appreciation for clowns (aside from the ones he’s not letting you see from his unreleased 1972 Holocaust movie set in a Nazi concentration camp).
Here’s what Lewis had to say about clowns, artistry and an old-fashioned definition of vulgarity: “Vulgarity started with clowns. A different vulgarity – not a vulgarity as we know it. But it started with clowns. Clowns in circuses would do anything to get a laugh. Fall on their face. Put custard in there. Water. Spill it. Paper. Dump. That was a clown’s work. There’s a vulgarity in comedy anyhow. ‘Cause it disrupts an audience, it gets them to move their chairs, and once the laugh is there, they appreciate what you’ve done.”
And he had high praise for the late great silent movie star, Charlie Chaplin, calling two weeks he spent with Chaplin in his Swiss home the “best two weeks of my life, based on creativity.” Lewis compared it to attending the greatest universities in the world. “I never thought I’d be in the presence of genius. I heard the word. It was used on me! And I didn’t understand it. But Charlie, you got probably a thousand performers today that learned from Charlie. Whether they know it or not, that’s something else.”
Before Arroyo asked Lewis at the end of the hour about ISIS, Donald Trump, his own legacy and the healing power of laughter, Arroyo also wanted to know who makes Lewis laugh today. Before throwing names at Lewis, Lewis offered two immediate answers: Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
How about Jimmy Fallon? “He’s a beginner. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s doing well. He’s doing well. The fact that he’s doing the third show makes it well. Jimmy Fallon could never ever be like the old comics like we remember. He could never do what I do. Because he had too many years on Saturday Night Live, which was a series of this-is-what-you-will-do, and that’s-what-we’re-shooting-next. No point of view. No contribution. They just did what was on the cue card. And I think Jimmy is suffering from that kind of work. And watch him in about a year. You’re going to see a development of this kid that’s going to be so wonderful.”
Stephen Colbert? “I don’t like him. I think he’s a snob. I think he’s elitist and snob.”
Tina Fey? “Ah. Wonderful. Brilliant, brilliant. Everything comes from her brain. Marvelous.”
Watch the entire interview without interruption here: