The idea of having a Muscular Dystrophy Telethon without Jerry Lewis is akin to having Kukla and Fran without inviting Ollie. Harvey Korman without Tim Conway. Robert Deniro without Joe Pesci. In the grand tradition of show business, it seems unthinkable that, after forty-five years that the Muscular Dystrophy Association would kick their favorite funnyman to the curb, but that's what's happening. They said Jerry was a "world-class humanitarian and we're forever grateful to him for his more than half century of generous service to MDA." Adding that they would not replace him for the post of national chairman.
I suppose at some level this could be seen as good news. Maybe this means that this terrible disease, the one that degenerates the skeletal muscles that control movement especially in children, has been cured. Not yet, but the MDA feels that it's time to move on without the Jerry in Jerry's kids. Perhaps at eighty-five, they feel that he is more a liability than an asset. Maybe they feel like they'd like to appeal to a different demographic. A more youthful one? Paul Rodriguez, Larry Miller, Tom Dreesen, Norm Crosby joined a group of fellow comedians at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles last Friday to turn up their collective noses at this idea. "If this is the way we're going, we should also tell grandpa we don't need him for Thanksgiving," joked Miller. This group didn't go so far as to suggest that they give Jerry his job back. All signs point to the fact that he didn't really want it in the first place (read with lozenge in cheek): “I didn’t mean to sound rude. But you have to assume the question you asked was motivated by something, and it had to be a little emotion. And I have to tell you the truth. September the 5th, the day after that program, I will have an international press conference with press from Reuters and London and China and Taiwan and all over the world, and I will have plenty to say about what I think is important. And that’s the future, not the past. Okay.”
If you're working for the MDA, would you hand this guy a microphone for a quick five minute victory lap? Probably not, but it sure would make great television, in a very train-wreck kind of way. But maybe it would solve the question about what needs to be done with Dick Clark on New Year's Eve. We'll see if Paul Rodriquez shows up for that press conference.