Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Jerry Lewis Is Many People, Many Things

Cleveland Press June 14, 1966

Jerry Lewis is a serious clown, a performer who thinks more highly of his ability to direct; a fluent, articulate man; an admitted egomaniac and a guy who's as comfortable as an old shoe.

Lewis is in Cleveland in behalf of a movie called "Three On A Couch," produced by Jerry Lewis, directed by Jerry Lewis and starring Jerry Lewis.

It was a tired Jerry Lewis who stepped out of the small plane at Burke Lakefront Airport yesterday, wearing white sneakers cotton trousers, short raincoat open-collared dress shirt, gray felt hat and dark glasses.

HE HAD been home in Los Angeles the night before, bowling with his wife Patti. ("It was family night at the bowling alley and they give stamps, " he quipped.) After that it was an overnight flight to New York and from there connections for Cleveland.

He is traveling six weeks to promote his movie, another six playing summer theaters, the first of which will be Musicarnival in July. At 40 he's at the top of.his profession and hardly needs the money, yet he obviously is driving himself.

"Why work? Because I love it, that's why," he explained. Later he talked seriously about the need he feels to learn everything there is to know about his business.

THE NORMAL (that is, off-screen Lewis voice is surprisingly low. Give him a leading question about directing, about television, about comedy and he'll run with it. He skips nimbly from one subject to another and his sincerity is such that whatever he says you feel you got to believe.

ON COMEDY: "Visual is comedy," he explains and the inversion of words is intentional. "You have to have words to hold it together but the visual is the important thing."

He considers Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Jackie Gleason the great clowns.

"It's hard to beat them. You only pray God is good and allows you to get somewhere around them.

"You have to be awful good to be silent," he adds.

ON DIRECTING: "I'm happier back of the camera than in front. Soon I hope to spend more time directing than acting. I've been taking pratfalls for 35 years. My buttocks have so many scars they look like the map of Wilkes Barre.

Does he have trouble directing himself?

"I know what to get out of Jerry the actor. So it can't fool me.

ON ACTING: "One actor is just like another without a director. Most actors are shallow.

"I'm as large an egomaniac as you'll meet. When I go to work I open an imaginary drawer in my desk and drop all that in.

ON TELEVISION: "TV is a product of the all embracing greed concept of Madison Ave. It will be OK when it is back in the hands of the networks.

"TV is visual hi-fi. There isn't anything that Chet and David say that you have to watch. Astronauts splashing down; a World Series -- that's TV.

"Would I go back? No. Not until I go back my way. People were in the wings yelling 'no.' If millions of people pay to see me I must know something.

"My funny bone has no time for statistics. Ratings mean nothing. Comedy is like an emotion and my emotion knows no reason."

His third-person references to Jerry are frequent, particularly to Jerry the actor. He considers himself primarily a director, but in the course of a conversation casts himself in any of several roles.

He talks about how he, as a producer, writes notes to himself, the director. Or about how as director he lectures Jerry the actor.

And strange as it all sounds, you got to believe.