The Day The Clown Cried
If a movie is not set to be released for a decade, when is it too soon to get your tent and lawn
chairs out to camp out in front of a theater to see it? I ask because I want to be first in line to see
The Day The Clown Cried.
For you young people out there, Jerry Lewis, not to be confused with the Jerry Lewis that liked
having sex with his thirteen-year-old cousin and setting pianos on fire, was the Jim Carrey of the
1950s. Contorting his face and body, he was the original man-child comedian. His partner and
straight man on stage was perhaps the coolest human being to ever grace this planet, a singer
named Dean Martin. Think George Clooney, except Dean didn’t have to make an effort.
Dean Martin was so cool that one day in 1964 he walked up to his teenage son, Ricci, who like
the rest of America was obsessed about The Beatles, and casually said,
“I’m gonna knock your pallies off the charts.”
And he did it. It was Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers and calling his shot. A middle-aged
man who could not have cared less about the youth culture took a song that other singers like
Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington and Frank Sinatra had failed miserably with called “Everybody
Loves Somebody Sometime” and made it the #1 song in the nation. When you can say, “Those
Beatles, I kicked their backside,” I believe that is the dictionary definition of cool.
Dean Martin was literally so cool that he had a television show where he only showed up on
days it was being filmed. I swear to all that is holy, that the show consisted of him smoking a
cigarette with a glass of booze in his hand (in reality probably ice tea) as he made off the cuff
jokes and hit on the female guest stars as they sang songs (that he read off of cue cards) together
and America could not get enough of it. It was a television staple for almost a decade. Two
hundred, fifty-four episodes of a show where the star acted like he would rather be playing golf.
It was must-see TV. That is cool.
In the early 1950s Martin and Lewis’ nightclub act was a phenomenon. Over a seven-year
period their monkey/straight man act made millions of dollars, with Jerry getting most of the
credit and press for their success even though Dean silently carried the act. Whether it was Dean
getting annoyed with Jerry’s antics or their wives not getting along, in 1956, the two went their
Dean Martin, would go on to do some of the best movies of the late 1950s and 1960s, was a
gold album recording artist, hosted a series of comedy roasts of celebrities that became a staple
of television, had his own television show, was the largest stock holder in RCA Records,
constantly sold out concerts in Las Vegas, and was a member of the infamous Rat Pack. I was
lucky enough to see one of the last Las Vegas concerts he did with Frank Sinatra. Twenty-one-
years-old, watching a gentleman old enough to be my grandfather and slowly dying of lung
cancer, wearing a god-awful toupee, struggling with the lyrics to songs he had sung a thousand
times and, still was so cool that if I had been wearing panties, I would have taken them off and
thrown them on stage.
Jerry Lewis? Except for a couple of great films, a solo Jerry Lewis made garbage. The man-
child, monkey routines in various movies without a straight man were often painful to watch and
have aged badly. In 1966, Paramount Pictures decided it was probably not a good financial move
to renew his contract. A middle-aged man playing an out of control man-child ends up being
more creepy than funny.
On three different occasions, he tried to launch a variety/talk show on television. Each failed
miserably. His recording career as a singer never got off the ground. As I child, I had to suffer
through the Jerry Lewis cartoon show,
Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, in which the real Jerry Lewis did not even bother to
voice the cartoon Jerry Lewis. (David Lauder, Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley did Jerry’s
voice.) It was so bad it had a laugh track to inform children where they should laugh. Jerry’s
main contributions were offensive Asian stereotypes, which the real Jerry Lewis threw out in
story meetings. The cartoon was mercifully cancelled when I just turned three.