So I get an e-mail that goes something like this: Richard Lewis will be in town for the Temple of Aaron benefit on November 1st. Would you like to interview him?
Well, duh! Why wouldn’t I want to talk to Richard Lewis? Lewis has been in the public eye for 45 years – doing standup, television, film and books. He’s been on Letterman 60 times and has staked his claim in the crowded field of hilarious, neurotic Jewish comedians.
Before the interview, I’ll confess I was getting a little nervous and had a lot of questions: Is he neurotic all the time? Is it a character? Is he wearing all black while talking to me on the phone? As a tribute to Lewis, I put on all black, down to the socks, before the interview and brace myself for a most interesting conversation.
It turns out that the neurotic thing is not just a character; it’s pure Lewis. He is what he is—and that’s just plain funny. Lewis grew up in New Jersey, where his father was a Kosher caterer. “He was so busy every weekend that my bar mitzvah was on a Tuesday. Kind of explains a lot, doesn’t it?” Lewis asks.
He’s as funny now as I remember him from “Hollywood Squares” back in the aughts, maybe next to Bruce Villanch. Though, now he has a whole new generation of fans from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
I asked if Larry David is as annoying in person as he is on his show. “Pretty much the same, maybe slightly exaggerated on TV.”
His “Curb” appearances may be his most popular comedic turn yet, which makes sense because he plays himself with creator, Larry David, who is his real-life childhood friend. They’ve have known each other since summer camp and were actually born four days apart in the same hospital. Lewis told me that he had to stay in the hospital a little longer, so he and David actually bunked together in the maternity ward. Lewis jokes,“Larry looked over at me and said, what are you still doing here?”
I asked if Larry David is as annoying in person as he is on his show. “Pretty much the same, maybe slightly exaggerated on TV.” He also described David as a “storytelling genius” and the “Norman Lear of his generation.” The funny thing is no one in this generation knows who Norman Lear is, right?
Unfortunately, he has absolutely no idea if the show is coming back. I was hoping for a scoop, you know, one Jew to another. Nuthin’.
Meanwhile, Lewis is currently co-starring with Patrick Stewart in the Starz original series, “Blunt Talk”. In it, Lewis has an “uncharacteristically calm role” as a psychiatrist. He praises the topical writing and can’t say enough about his co-star Patrick Stewart.
Lewis also has a fan crush on Temple of Aaron’s special guest from last year, and funniest-Jew-ever, Mel Brooks. He told me in all seriousness,“If G-d had a son, it would be Mel Brooks.”
So that brought us back to the whole reason for his visit, his performance at the Tribute Event taking place at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul on Sunday. Turns out his wife grew up attending Temple of Aaron and he’s slightly terrified to be performing on her home turf. “I have 20 doctors appointments today and I’m more worried about being introduced by a rabbi in front of the arc and her entire family,” he admits.
Lewis confesses that it’s more than just the arc and his in-laws giving him pause, “I’m going to be buried in St. Paul one day, and performing at Temple of Aaron is just a little bit too close for me right now. I have a good 15 years to go.”
So go see him this coming Sunday at Temple of Aaron where he tells me he’ll only tell “Jewish sex jokes,” he tells me. Is there such a thing? Is that a joke? I’m left with more questions and can’t wait to see him perform.
Guess what? You can also win two free tickets to see Richard Lewis on November 1st by liking this post on TC Jewfolk’s Facebook page AND liking TC Jewfolk’s Facebook page. That’s worth some scratch, people. Enter by Thursday, October 29 at 12:00 p.m. Winner will be notified via Facebook.