Brash comic genius or infantile buffoon, Jerry Lewis is beloved by countless imitators, and, of course, the French.
His brand of unbridled “Hey, laaaa-dy!” anarchy inspired everyone from Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey to Professor Frink on “The Simpsons,” a loving homage to “The Nutty Professor.”
He shot to fame in the ’50s as the wisecracking, spastic funnyman to suave, crooning straight man Dean Martin. His over-the-top physical comedy and rubber face became his trademarks, and later led to health problems.
In the ’60s he became one of Paramount’s biggest moneymakers with such solo laughfests as “The Bellboy,” eventually following in the footsteps of Chaplin as the star creator of his own auteurist visions.
His marathon muscular dystrophy telethons have been a Labor Day weekend staple since 1966.