Tom Shales goes there, delicately.
Showing his cranky side, and hinting at his notorious temper, Lewis
complained repeatedly about the sound equipment, the plug in his ear and
not being able to hear. He was still griping about it in the 20th hour
of the 21-hour event. He called for the director to cut to a shot of him
because “I just wanted to see if I was still on,” he said.
Shales is actually quite sympathetic to Jerry Lewis in the piece. But he’s also honest. Anyone watching that Paul the Chihuahuha clip is likely to think less “wacky comedian going hilariously over the top” and more “old man acting crazy.” The studio audience sure seemed to feel that way, going from “Awww, the dog is licking him” to uncomfortable shrieks of laughter and then just
Can you be just too old and nutty to host a major (or once-major) telethon? The Muscular Dystrophy people have surely had this very discussion, quietly, in a locked boardroom that has been swept for listening devices.
Jerry Lewis is 84. As Shales puts it, “Who knows where any of us will be, one year from now?”