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MDA dropped Jerry Lewis as host of the annual Telethon. Laugh Factory comedians held a press conference in his support.
After the Wednesday MDA announcement that the association had relieved Jerry Lewis of his duties as host and chairman of the annual telethon, despite his May assertion that the upcoming Labor Day telethon would be his last, many of the Hollywood’s famous Laugh Factory, as Paul Rodriguez, Larry Miller, Tom Dreesen, and Norm Crosby rallied to support the 85 year old comedian.
Last Friday, they held a press conference at the Laugh Factory club to reprimand the MDA for the decision to drop the man that was the face of telethon and they see as a member of the family.
The comedians demand that Jerry Lewis at the very least should attend the telethon and be given a proper send-off to celebrate his 45 years of hosting.
“If this is the way we’re going, we should also tell grandpa we don’t need him for Thanksgiving,” joked Larry Miller to reporters.
Jamie Masada, Laugh Factory owner said that his club is holding a petition to present to the MDA.
“The charity should have a better, bigger heart,” he said.
The petition has already gained over 10,000 signatures, but Jamie Masada said he is hoping for 100,000 signers expressing disapproval about MDA decision.
“We don’t want to boycott the charity of the kids,” Masada continued.
“We want to to raise money but they didn’t have to be cold-hearted.”
The MDA’s reasoning for replacing Lewis has not been announced, but Laugh Factory owner, Jamie Masada claimed he and the comedians support Jerry Lewis regardless of the reasons for his dismissal.
“He’s not dead,” said Paul Rodriguez during the press conference.
“He’s very much alive.”
The event was full of bitter-laced humor.
“We’re gonna host our own telethon,” Rodriguez said.
“We’re trying to find a cure for disrespect and ingratitude.”
Norm Crosby called the MDA’s decision as being “abrupt” and “cruel.”
“If it was time for him to leave, that’s debatable. If he was cranky and nasty and difficult, that’s possible too,” Crosby said.
“But it was all because of the passion he had for these kids and the money they raised and for the telethon. Certainly there could’ve been a much more pleasant, easier way for him to go.”
On this year Labor Day, the Laugh Factory is planning a fundraiser from which all proceeds will be donated to research for muscular dystrophy.
46th annual telethon preparations are under way as planned at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, where the event will be held, according to casino spokesman, Tom Mikovits.
There is no comment from the MDA after the press event, according to Jim Brown, the MDA’s vice president of public relations.
Jerry Lewis has been criticized many times by the members of the disability rights community.
In 1990, he wrote a first-person essay entitled “If I Had Muscular Dystrophy” for Parade magazine, in which he characterized those with muscular dystrophy as “being half a person”. Many in the disabled community viewed his remarks as prejudicial, contributing to the idea that people with disabilities are “childlike, helpless, hopeless, non- functioning and noncontributing members of society”. Members of the disability rights community object to Jerry Lewis receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
In February 2000, Lewis stunned an audience gathered to honor his work at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival by saying he doesn’t like female comics. Jerry Lewis said,
“I don’t like any female comedians. A woman doing comedy doesn’t offend me, but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world.”
He later defended the remark, saying it was taken wildly out of context, and added that he made 11 movies with comic character actress Kathleen Freeman.
During the 2007 Labor Day Telethon, Lewis almost let slip the word “faggot” while live on air. While talking to a cameraman, he joked: “Oh, your family has come to see you. You remember Bart, your oldest son, Jesse, the illiterate fag–no…”, at which point he turned away from the camera.
Jerry Lewis health concerns
Jerry Lewis has suffered years of back pain after an injury that almost left him paralyzed when he did a comedic pratfall from a piano on March 20, 1965 while performing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
He became addicted to the pain killer Percodan, but says he has been off the drug since 1978 and has not taken one since. In April 2002, Lewis had a “Synergy” neurostimulator, developed by Medtronic, implanted in his back, which has helped reduce the discomfort. He is now one of Medtronic’s leading spokespeople.
Jerry Lewis has battled prostate cancer, diabetes I, and pulmonary fibrosis and has had at least two heart attacks. A third heart attack, claimed to have been sustained while filming Cinderfella in 1960, has not been confirmed officially. Prednisone treatment in the early 2000s for pulmonary fibrosis resulted in weight gain and a noticeable change in his appearance.