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The life of famed comedian Jerry Lewis was celebrated in Las Vegas, where host Tony Orlando told funny stories in an event that was more joyous than gloomy, as the comic would have wanted.
“We lost a great one,” said Orlando, who co-hosted the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon for decades. “The man who generated those laughs was Jerry Lewis. We are going to miss him. Imprint, today, every laugh he ever gave you.”
Orlando spoke to more than 400 friends and family Monday.
Lewis’ muscular dystrophy telethons were a Labor Day staple for more than 40 years. From the 1960s onward, the telethons raised about $1.5 billion, including more than $60 million in 2009.
Lewis died Aug. 20 at age 91 in Las Vegas of heart disease and was cremated.
“Jerry did not like memorials,” spokeswoman Candi Cazau said. “He would want people to rejoice over what he put into and what he received from life.”
Lewis gained fame with his comic partnership with Dean Martin and made movie favorites like The Bellboy and The Nutty Professor.
He also was featured in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and made a 1990s stage comeback as the devil in the Broadway revival of Damn Yankees. A major influence on slapstick performers like Jim Carrey, he kept up world travel and movie-remake plans in his ‘80s.
In his honor, ArcLight theaters in California and Illinois showed those classic films Monday and donated all the proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
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