It’s Been 10 Years Since Jerry Lewis (Yet Again) Crapped on His Own Legacy By Slandering Female Comedians
The Cannes film festival is now in full swing, the annual showcase of new movies and/or famous filmmakers sharing their garbage opinions in uncomfortable interviews. This week also marks the 10-year anniversary of one the most notorious moments in Cannes history: When Jerry Lewis ranted about how the mere existence of female comedians “bothers” him.
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There’s no doubt that Lewis was once a comedic force of nature, an influential slapstick megastar, starring in classics like The Disorderly Orderly, The Bellboy, and of course, the pre-Klumps original The Nutty Professor. Plus, he raised billions for the Muscular Dystrophy Association with his annual telethons. He was also a giant piece of crap.
At this point, no part of Lewis’ legacy hasn’t been ruined by stories of his toxic behavior. He allegedly sexually assaulted his female co-stars while filming those classic movies, routinely lashed out at journalists and his charity work has been tainted by accounts of Lewis’ disrespectful behavior toward the very people he purported to be helping. And we’re not even going to get into his infamous clown-centric Holocaust movie disaster.
Lewis further took a steaming dump on his own legacy in May 2013 when his movie Max Rose premiered at Cannes. He had previously made repugnant comments about female comedians at the 2000 Aspen Comedy Festival, telling moderator Martin Short, “I don’t like any female comedians,” which elicited gasps from the audience. When Short pressed him, asking about the legendary Lucille Ball, Lewis replied, “A woman doing comedy doesn’t offend me but sets me back a bit… I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world.”
Lewis’ grotesquely misogynistic musings were later revisited by Tina Fey, who criticized Lewis in her 2011 book, and also by Judd Apatow, who spoke at the 2012 Critics’ Choice Awards when Bridesmaids won Best Comedy Movie. “Jerry Lewis once said that he didn’t think that women were funny,” Apatow stated, “I’d like to say, with all respect, fuck you.”
When reporters at Cannes brought up the revived controversy, Lewis somehow made things worse. On the topic of “broad comedy,” Lewis said, “I cannot see women doing that. It bothers me. I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities to the lowest common denominators. I just cannot do that.”
Max Rose director Daniel Noah then, for some reason, decided to kick the hornet’s nest by asking Lewis to name some of his favorite female comedians, to which Lewis replied: “Cary Grant… Burt Reynolds… I don’t have any.” Quick reminder: Jerry Lewis personally worked with both Carol Burnett and Madeline Kahn.
Lewis died just four years later, going down in history as a
comedy icon irrelevant, bigoted dinosaur pretty much everyone ended up hating.
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