Jerry Lewis, the legendary comedian, filmmaker and well known for his slapstick comedy in entertainment, has passed away at the age of 91, confirmed by both The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times. His death has been confirmed by Lewis’ publicist, Candi Cazau. He died Sunday morning of natural causes, surrounded by his family in Las Vegas.
Lewis was born in New Jersey on March 16, 1926, to Daniel and Rachel Levitch. He started performing at the age of 5 and was pulling pranks as a teenager. While performing professionally, he gained a lot of attention when he teamed up with singer Dean Martin as part of a double act. They were known as the Martin and Lewis comedy team, making appearances on live television and starring in their own films. They both went on to lead successful solo careers later in life.
Jerry Lewis was recognized as a world-renowned humanitarian throughout his career and adult life, and loved for his work with muscular dystrophy. He famously served as national chairman of and spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. To benefit the company, Lewis began hosting telethons from 1952 to 1959. Years later, he would host the annual live Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon every Labor Day weekend from 1966 to 2010. He ended up raising a total of more than $2.6 billion in donations.
In 2011, it was announced that Lewis would no longer be hosting the telethon and was no longer associated with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, though he still sang praises for the organization.
In 2009, during the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, Lewis was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his philanthropy. “For most of my life, I thought that doing good for someone wouldn’t mean you’d receive commendation for that act of kindness, at least until now,” Lewis said during his acceptance speech. “This award touches my heart and the very depth of my soul because of who the award is from, and those who will benefit. The humility is staggering, and I know it will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Jerry Lewis had five sons and adopted an additional son with his first wife, Patti Palmer, whom he later divorced. He eventually adopted a daughter with his second wife, SanDee Pitnick.
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