Humorously Morose Comedian Richard Lewis, Who Recently Starred On ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ Dies At 76

Richard Lewis, an acclaimed comedian known for exploring his neuroses in frantic, stream-of-consciousness diatribes while dressed in all-black, leading to his nickname “The Prince of Pain,” has died. He was 76.

Wednesday, February 28th 2024, 3:13 pm

By: Associated Press


Richard Lewis, an acclaimed comedian known for exploring his neuroses in frantic, stream-of-consciousness diatribes while dressed in all-black, leading to his nickname “The Prince of Pain,” has died. He was 76.

Lewis, who revealed he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2023, died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack, according to his publicist Jeff Abraham.

A regular performer in clubs and on late-night TV for decades, Lewis also played Marty Gold, the romantic co-lead opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, in the ABC series “Anything But Love” and the reliably neurotic Prince John in “Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights.” He re-introduced himself to a new generation opposite Larry David in HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” kvetching regularly.

“I’m paranoid about everything in my life. Even at home. On my stationary bike, I have a rear-view mirror, which I’m not thrilled about,” he once joked onstage. To Jimmy Kimmel he said: “This morning, I tried to go to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I counted sheep but I only had six of them and they all had hip replacements.”

omedy Central named Lewis one of the top 50 stand-up comedians of all time and he earned a berth in GQ magazine’s list of the “20th Century’s Most Influential Humorists.” He lent his humor for charity causes, including Comic Relief and Comedy Gives Back.

“Watching his stand-up is like sitting in on a very funny and often dark therapy session,” the Los Angeles Times said in 2014. The Philadelphia’s City Paper called him “the Jimi Hendrix of monologists.” Mel Brooks once said he “may just be the Franz Kafka of modern-day comedy.”

Following his graduation from The Ohio State University in 1969, the New York-born Lewis began a stand-up career, honing his craft on the circuit with other contemporaries also just starting out like Jay Leno, Freddie Prinze and Billy Crystal.

He recalled Rodney Dangerfield hiring him for $75 to fill in at his New York club, Dangerfield’s. “I had a lot of great friends early on who believed in me, and I met pretty iconic people who really helped me, told me to keep working on my material. And I never looked back,” he told The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2010.

Unlike contemporary Robin Williams, Lewis allowed audiences into his world and melancholy, pouring his torment and pain onto the stage. Fans favorably compared him to the ground-breaking comedian Lenny Bruce.

“I take great pains not to be mean-spirited,” Lewis told The Palm Beach Post in 2007. “I don’t like to take real handicaps that people have to overcome with no hope in sight. I steer clear of that. That’s not funny to me. Tragedy is funny to other humorists, but it’s not to me, unless you can make a point that’s helpful.”

Singer Billy Joel has said he was referring to Lewis when he sang in “My Life” of an old friend who “bought a ticket to the West Coast/Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.”

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