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Last night, I watched the Lee Atwater documentary, Boogie Man. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it very highly. I always knew Atwater was an awful human being, but I didn’t realize quite the level of his scumbaggery until I watched the movie. He was just an irredeemably horrid individual. Disgusting. Revolting. Almost equally infuriating was listening to Sam Donaldson talk about getting played by Atwater, knowing he’s being lied to, and just not really caring. Give it to Dan Rather, at least he did care about these things, even if it meant he was eventually railroaded out of the profession for it. Atwater’s attack on Rather was disgusting. But the fact that the media thinks it’s a big funny game made me feel real hate for all involved.

On the other hand, before watching Boogie Man, I decided that it was time to fill a hole in my film knowledge and watch a Jerry Lewis movie. I chose The Errand Boy, supposedly one of his best. And I have to say, Lewis makes Atwater seem a lot more sympathetic. I knew I was watching a monster in Atwater, but at least he wasn’t quite a soul-destroying as Jerry Lewis. Holy hell that was awful. I started yelling at the TV, which is not out of character for me, but I was really angry. I have a Francophile side, but if it is true that the French actually like Lewis, I am going to have to rethink my fundamental positions on the world.

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  • Uncle Kvetch

    but if it is true that the French actually Lewis

    Oh God please, not this again…

    • Bart

      Isn’t that a canard? (heh, heh)

  • c u n d gulag

    I know I’ll take heat for this one:
    I’m no great fan, but I’ll take Jerry Lewis over Adam Sandler any day.

    God, Sandler makes Lewis look like Chaplin, Fields, Keaton, Lloyd, and Hope, in their heyday.

    And it’s AMERICAN’S who seem to love Sandler, because he never seems to lack movie projects – just any discernible talent.

    Plus, Jerry’s done a lot of good in the world with his MDA telethons.

    • I’m no great fan, but I’ll take rhinovirus over dysentary any day.

      • Warren Terra

        I was going to make a similar proposal, but I certainly wasn’t going to include anything as innocuous as rhinovirus.

  • David Hunt


    Erik wasn’t criticizing Lewis’ morals, only his talent. Mr. Lewis has done a great amount of humanitarian work that he should be commended for. I’m sure that Erik agrees. However, I will state that my personal rate that someone would have to pay me to watch one of his movies starts at $100 per hour…

    • David Hunt

      This was supposed to be a reply to gulag’s comment made at 11:48.

      Also, I want to clarify that if anyone out there actually likes Lewis’ films, more power to you. Enjoy. Lots of people like broccoli, but I hate that too.

      • c u n d gulag

        I didn’t think Erik was criticizing Lewis’ morals at all.
        That’s why I referenced some of the great comedians in the prior era. It was to say, not that Lewis by himself reminds me of any of them, but when compared to Sandler…
        I think you get what I meant.

        And I’d want at least $1,000 and hour to watch one of Sandler’s movies.

        But, then I like broccoli, so wtf do I know? :-)

        • firefall

          But noone is lauding Sandler as a comic genius (or even, really, as a comic)

          • bgn

            Noone? Tell that to Armond White & John Nolte.

          • Warren Terra

            Possibly I’d laud him as a genius – to make so much money and so many movies out of so little comedic talent surely requires something special.

          • c u n d gulag

            I’m not saying ‘lauding.’

            I’m saying he’s a mediocrity who keeps raking in millions to make movies that mostly appeal to teenage boys, and that once they discover that real girls are more fun than schtupping your sock to pictures on the internet, or to Dad’s porn stash if you’re blocked from those sites, no longer flock to his moronic hack-arrific celluloid screeds.

            • firefall

              Agreed – just, Lewis is so lauded, periodically. Sandler seems to just be the latest in a long line of lowest-brow … what do you call them, certainly not comedians. cf Pauly Shore for the last iteration

              • c u n d gulag

                Yes, exactly, Sandler & Shore – seperated at lack of mirth.

                • I think Sandler could be a decent serious actor (Punch Drunk Love) but his comedy is awful (though I did always love one song). Jerry Lewis was awful both in comic and serious roles.

  • Lee

    Lee Atwater was only the latest incarnation of a long line of Republican propagandists. I believe that there is enough evidence to support the contention that the GOP has used the dirtiest, most dishonest tactics to win elections since the accusations against Grover Cleveland having an illigitimate child. There was campaign against Al Smith and too many others to count.

    • Cleveland *did* have an illegitimate child. Neither Atwater nor any present Republican strategist now working would feel constrained to limit themselves to facts which are demonstrably true.

      • Holden Pattern

        And in fact, it would feel unfamiliar to them if they came across a fact they could use which was true.

  • Hogan

    I’ve seen The Nutty Professor once, and that’s enough for me.

    I always wondered whether the French were seeing Lewis dubbed or with subtitles. Mostly what drives me to blind rage at Lewis is that voice. If only he talked more like Prof. Frink . . .

    • Warren Terra

      Does your suggestion that Lewis has a great comedic genius that is counteracted by the awfulness of his voice make him the anti-Rowan Atkinson? (Loved Blackadder, hated Mr. Bean).

      • Hogan

        I’d have said “great comedic adequacy,” but agreed about Atkinson.

    • Richard

      They were seeing him with subtitles. Almost all American movies that played in France during that time period had subtitles rather than dubbing

    • CBrinton

      I’ve been told (by a Frenchman, if that matters) that in the 1960s and 1970s almost all foreign films shown in France, including Jerry Lewis’s, were dubbed rather than subtitled. Whoever did Lewis’s voice for a French dub probably would not have replicated the full effect.

      An interesting tidbit from “Cecil Adams” (i.e. Ed Zotti, of _The Straight Dope_):

      “[Lewis biographer Shawn] Levy conjectures that French audiences took to Lewis in part because he exemplified the French notion of the auteur–the individual, typically the director, who imposes his artistic vision on the production, which Lewis definitely did. But it’s probably equally true that the French, despite or maybe because of their devotion to art (you know, pushing the envelope and all that), were also suckers for low comedy. One recalls the legendary French stage performer Le Petomane, aka the Fartiste. Not that Jerrymania was strictly a French thing. Lewis was voted director of the year three times in France, but he won the same honor in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands.”

      full article at http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1349/do-the-french-really-love-jerry-lewis

  • firefall

    See, this is why the republicans want to turn the clock back to the 50s: it was so bad that Jerry Lewis was a comparative comic genius … so they ALL figure they’ve got a shot too

  • Njorl

    I always assumed the French liked Lewis for the same reasons that Americans loved characters that reinforced racist stereotypes.

    • Fisk

      …is what I would have said if I were quick enough.
      Still, many of us can cop to a perverse fascination with the Nutty Professor.

  • DrDick

    at least he wasn’t quite a soul-destroying as Jerry Lewis. Holy hell that was awful.

    This is why I automatically ignore all assertions about the good taste and sophistication of the French.

  • On the topic of the press making one sick, how about “the wilding of Al Gore?” The press just decided that Al Gore wasn’t going to be president, that Bush wasn’t going to be examined, and to help make that happen, even “journalists” who had reported truthfully on Gore years before he ran for president felt just fine telling lies about Gore that completely contradicted their early interviewers and articles.

    They just got amnesia and then lied through their fucking teeth about Al Gore. They mocked and ridiculed him with no regard whatsoever about truth or fact or professionalism. Oy weg. WTF?!

    • grouchomarxist

      The press was punishing Gore for the sins of Clinton, while simultaneously punishing the public for not joining in their little Villager morality play.

      Also, it was a power trip: They did it because they could.

      It was as deliberate as it was unforgiveable.

  • Sharon

    I still have a perverse desire to see “The Day the Clown Cried.”

    I know, I need help.

  • Linnaeus

    I liked The King of Comedy, but maybe that’s more because of Robert DeNiro rather than Jerry Lewis.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Not really a “Jerry Lewis movie,” but 1)he was terrific in it, and 2)it’s one of the best films of the 80s.

      • Uncle Kvetch

        Heartily agree on both counts.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks


          On the other hand, Where the Truth Lies (which is about a fictionalized version of Martin and Lewis) is easily the worst Atom Egoyan movie I’ve ever seen.

      • Halloween Jack


  • A pic for Erik. Also the line “I have licked emulsion.”

  • oudemia

    Didn’t Jonathan Rosenbaum write an essay called something like, “On the Overvaluation of Woody Allen with Respect to Jerry Lewis”? Yeah, yeah. I could look it up.

  • cpinva

    now you know why dean martin split up with jerry lewis. it was either go their separate ways, or martin would be forced to kill lewis. i still think he should have killed him, it would have been the humanitarian thing to do, but i understand martin’s position.

    i don’t throw the term “nazi” around lightly, but i believe lee atwater would have felt right at home, as a propogandist for the hitler regime, he was just that odious. worse, to this day i still have no idea whether he actually bought into the ideology, or it was just such an easy gig, not that it really makes all that much difference.

  • burritoboy

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say it:

    I love Jerry Lewis’ movies. The French are right about him. (I think Rosenbaum is simply too soft on Allen, who is a real blight upon American independent film-making.)

    Martin and Lewis split up because Martin didn’t want to do any actual work besides showing up half in the bag and playing the straight guy.

    • Stag Party Palin

      I think you’re right about Martin and Lewis, but I still hate JL’s movies. They are the precursors to the dumb and dumber series, for which may they rot.

      Woody, OTOH, embarrasses me in movies. I literally cringe. Yes, he’s a genius writer – some of his books make me laugh uncontrollably. I wish we could have some of his stuff on screen but without any of his directing, acting, or other influence. Have ‘his’ character played by Matt Damon, frinstance. Now that would be funny.

  • grouchomarxist

    The Encore cable channels have been saturation-touting their upcoming and by all indications insanely flattering documentary of Jerry Lewis, with promos using language like “comedic genius”.

    So it may be we’ve seen the “Best When Sold By” date on that particular canard, at least as specifically concerns the French. Fortunately, we’re a resourceful people — I’m sure we’ll soon come up with something to replace it.

  • I mentioned Harry Shearer above, and it reminded me of a magazine article he wrote in the 1970’s about the Jerry Lewis telethon, which he posted on the ‘net back on Labor Day weekend. It’s fascinating.

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