Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jerry 101

I just heard that Jerry Lewis passed away. Dr. Theresa and my pal Phil Oppenheim alerted me simultaneously. I feel terrible! I am going to try to update an old "post" that had ninety introductions to Jerry Lewis for the curious. I am going to try to find eleven things to add so I can call it "Jerry 101." [As a work meeting was coming up as this "post" was being typed, several, though not all, of the hastily retrieved final additions may be of a lesser quality. - ed.] 1. How is Edgar Allan Poe like Jerry Lewis? 2. For that matter, what would Kierkegaard say about Jerry Lewis? 3. Bob Dylan got "deeply into" Jerry Lewis. 4. Jerry was a hero to Richard Pryor. 5. Jerry shares expressionistic instincts with iconic rappers. 6. He made Orson Welles laugh. 7. Freudian aspects of Jerry. 8. He played a gig with Thelonious Monk. 9. A trusted method of immersing yourself in Jerryness. 10. Don't believe me? Take it from bestselling novelist Laura Lippman! 11. Don't believe Laura Lippman? Perhaps famed method actor Edward Norton is more to your taste. 12. Consider Jerry Lewis as the forefather of David Lynch. 13. So can it be a coincidence that Lynch was cast in a part originally written for Jerry Lewis? (See also.) 14. As muse to hardboiled Don Carpenter. 15. Jerry's spectacular use of color. 16. Jerry is the inventor of anti-comedy, his aesthetic also appropriated by the cinematic underground. 17. Read the great Jerry monograph by Chris Fujiwara. 18. Jerry a hero to Michael Palin of the Monty Python comedy troupe. 19. Jerry an inspiration for the British version of THE OFFICE that everyone used to love so much. 20. Jerry makes me think of the French painter Henri Rosseau. 21. Do you think Jerry is redundant? No, he is "unfolding redundancy." Joke's on you! 22. Do you like Godard? Well, Godard based some of his scenes on Jerry Lewis scenes. Like this and that. 23. Some maintain that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY would have been better with Jerry in it. 24. Speaking of which, was Jerry an influence on Boorman's groundbreaking POINT BLANK? I don't know, but he should have starred in it. 25. How about that prescient scene in THE BELLBOY that anticipates Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY? Or the possibly relevant fact that Jerry directed parts of THE KING OF COMEDY? 26. The Cinderfella dance! 27. Jerry frequently appears in THE BELIEVER magazine, if that's your cup of tea. 28. I intuit a connection between Jerry and J.D. Salinger. 29. And supposedly Salinger considered Jerry to direct the movie version of CATCHER IN THE RYE, maybe. I said maybe! 30. Jerry's influence on GOODFELLAS. 31. Jerry Lewis is part of Philip K. Dick's mystic vision of the entire universe. 32. You should watch lots of Jerry Lewis so you can practice the fun habit of saying things like Jerry Lewis. 33. Even nature itself aspires to sound like Jerry Lewis. 34. Jerry Lewis is a good singer. 35. Maybe you identify with Jerry's world-weary attitude. 36. He hung out in a diner with Marilyn Monroe. 37. Blair Hobbs detects an aesthetic kinship between Jerry and the photographer William Eggleston. 38. Jerry was an inspiration to Bruce Springsteen. 39. Think of Jerry as a poet. 40. Need a dissertation topic? How about "Medical Ethics in the Films of Jerry Lewis"? 41. In a hilarious practical joke, Jerry ruined Dick van Dyke's meeting with the queen! 42. Jerry was instrumental in getting the great Stan Laurel his honorary Oscar. 43. Jerry is handsome! 44. Maybe you are a "conspiracy theory buff." Well, for real the CIA tampered with one of Jerry's movies. 45. Maybe you're an animal lover. Well, Jerry bought a hearing aid for his dog. 46. Jerry is subversive! 47. Quentin Tarantino + Jerry Lewis = True Love 4ever. 48. (Maybe because he anticipated one of Tarantino's more radical and disruptive narrative decisions by 40 years.) 49. Does he irritate you and make you uncomfortable? MAYBE THAT'S JUST WHAT JERRY WANTS! 50. For example, he once stuck his nose in Frank Sinatra's eye. 51. And took some of the starch out of Tony Curtis by flicking ashes on his jacket. 52. Jerry is complicated. He "both depicts and manifests inadvertent disclosure." - J. Hoberman. 53. Jerry's influence on the Beastie Boys. 54. Jerry appears in works by acknowledged comic geniuses John Hodgman and Michael Kupperman. 55. But perhaps you prefer authors from Mississippi, a chunk of land with a notable literary history. If so, you should be aware that Tom Franklin and Frederick Barthelme have put Jerry Lewis in their well-regarded "Mississippi" novels. 56. So has Don DeLillo, though he is not from Mississippi, nor are his novels set there. 57. ARE you a historian, by the way? Then consider Jerry's breakup with Dean in its implications as "a national trauma." 58. Francis Ford Coppola cites Jerry as an influence. 59. Which reminds me: I recently read an interview that Scorsese did with Lewis in which he (Scorsese) cites THE LADIES MAN as an influence. I always assumed the scene in question was drawn from SATYRICON. But SATYRICON came out after THE LADIES MAN, so maybe SATYRICON was influenced by Jerry too! I just now decided that, while typing this. 60. Jerry's darker side a fruitful subject for literary speculation. 61. Speaking of which, John Waters said Jerry Lewis was "probably a monster!" Can there be a higher compliment? 62. Although (see previous "link") John Waters went on to praise his taste in costuming. So that subject is worth contemplation. 63. Though, intriguingly, to Waters's original hypothesis, Jerry repeatedly acknowledges the collusion of the innocent with the monstrous, especially within a single individual. (See also.) 64. Jerry's art provides some of the same challenges and rewards as Sun Ra's. 65. Jerry envisioned hosting Queen Elizabeth, Jimmy Hoffa and Helen Keller on a talk show. I still want to write that play. 66. Fascinating undercurrents to his on- and off-screen chemistry with Dean Martin. 67. I wrote a pretty good article about him once if you can find it. 68. And this "post" is all right. 69. Try to solve Jerry's universal problem. 70. The complex transparency of Jerry's genius can be profitably compared to Brian Wilson's. 71. Jerry reveals the intrinsic flaws in the very notion of successful human communication. 72. Maybe that's why he's constantly "rewriting his own being." 73. But before he rewrote himself too much, here's a 13-minute clip of young Jerry at his brashest and most engaging. 74. Jerry's anarchic devouring of the hand that feeds him. 75. Maybe you are from the "dance world." Did you know that many highbrow choreographers turn to Jerry Lewis for inspiration? 76. Similarities between Jerry and the great Italian giallo director Mario Bava, if that's your thing. 77. Jerry is a model of tact and restraint compared to the makers of Jason Bateman movies. 78. As Jerry is, so you will be. As you are, so once was he. 79. Jerry, like Elvis, was a target of snobbery and classism. 80. I mean, even when he ended the Oscar broadcast EARLY, the powers-that-be still despised him. He gets under "the man's" skin. 81. For example, when everybody in "the establishment" was dumping on Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE, Jerry was one of the first to proclaim its greatness. 82. Did he inspire a character in a Wes Anderson movie? Probably not. But I think he inspired a character in a Noah Baumbach movie. 83. Touchstone for towering cartoonists Lynda Barry and Gilbert Hernandez. 84. Jerry deemed a subject worthy of the Savannah College of Art and Design. 85. Jerry cut short his formal education and set out to educate himself. 86. Jonathan Rosenbaum knows a lot about movies and he loves Jerry Lewis. 87. Tough-to-please James Wolcott likewise. 88. Camille Paglia seems happy about Jerry Lewis. 89. Even comedians who resist his influence must grapple with his legacy. 90. Jerry blurs assumptions about gender. 91. Hey, Sandra Bullock likes Jerry Lewis. 92. And John Sayles says "he did it all," though he was likely just being polite. 93. Jerry helps redeem the troubling "monkey riding dogs" trope. 94. Jerry advances clowning from sadness to rage. 95. Jerry's singing provides ballast in one of those ubiquitous "peak TV" shows that no one can get enough of. 96. Just the thought of Jerry Lewis makes someone laugh alone in a parking lot. 97. Jerry makes comedy of our basic existential choice. 98. See my AV Club interview on Jerry Lewis's literary influence, I guess. 99. Jerry of sufficient interest to narrowly escape being drunk-dialed by Cary Fukunaga. 100. Noted author Megan Abbott finds that watching Jerry is "akin to psychosexual quicksand"! 101. Appropriately at this moment, Jerry Lewis distracts me from James Joyce's elegiac short story, "The Dead," supplanting death with life!