Monday, August 21, 2017

Jerry Lewis to Raymond Arroyo on 2015 EWTN Interview: "You're the best interviewer I've ever had, and I've had thousands."

Raymond Arroyo, the host of EWTN's The World Over, interviewed Jerry Lewis, a few days before Christmas, 2015. I suspect it was one of the most popular interviews Arroyo ever gave. I assume many of you remember it. I missed it.

Lewis died, yesterday, at the age of 91.

I've transcribed a few minutes of the interview, below (I had a bit of help on the last third of it from EWTN and Lifezette). The transcription is from the most "politically incorrect" section, where Lewis says, "the refugees should stay where the hell they are," praises Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan, makes a joke about how the Chinese name their children by seeing where thrown utensils land on a platter - "ting, tong," and (worst heresy of all) calls Stephen Colbert, "an elitist snob."

But calling it "politically incorrect" is unfair to Lewis and the interview. I don't think Lewis was trying to be anything. That's bull__t, he might have agreed. He was simply answering the questions as truthfully as he could (and trying to be a bit funny). He dissed Colbert but praised Tina Fey as "brilliant."  

Lewis was not really part of my generation, and I am somewhat unschooled in vintage comedies, so I can't say I was ever a great fan. I always associated him with silly movies and the Muscular Dystrophy telethons. Though I did think his portrayal of "Jerry Langford" in The King of Comedy was nifty.

But the interview made me want to review his work (the EWTN segment contained some clips).

At the end of the interview (not transcribed here). Lewis tells Arroyo that he was the "best interviewer he ever had." I can believe it. And I think Lewis meant it. Among other things, there's such an obvious sense of good will between the two men.

If you missed it in 2015, and if you have time, watch the full interview, below. It reveals much about Lewis, the comedian and the person, as well as giving a glimpse into the history of mid-20th century comedy and show business.

Tomorrow, I'll post a video of the worst interviewer Jerry Lewis ever had...

The EWTN segment lasted 57 minutes, with the interview taking up most of it. The transcribed section is from approximately 43:55 to 50:00:

Raymond Arroyo: You told a story about going to China recently...

Jerry Lewis: Well they took me to the Great Wall, and I was with probably 200 press. (They) followed me all over Shanghai and all over China. But at the Great Wall I'm standing there with a reporter from United Press and he said, "well what do you think of the Great Wall?" I said "I think it's nice but it ain't great." It made the front pages of every paper in Asia: "Jerry Lewis calls the Great Wall, 'nice.'" And I said, "how do you say nice in China?" "Tongue-Yao." Nice.

Arroyo: Not so nice.

Lewis: I don't even know what that means, "Tongue-Yao." Well you never know that they have a special way of naming Chinese children. It's a special way. They take a huge silver platter. They put it on the ground. They grab a handful of silverware. They throw the silverware up in the air, and as the silverware hits the platter - "ting tong ching chong tong ting" is how they named Chinese children.

Arroyo: Now, you know when some people hear a joke like that, they say, well that's politically incorrect. You shouldn't be telling that joke.

Lewis: Oh, bullshit. [EWTN bleeped this out.]

Arroyo: What do you say?

Lewis: I got six Catholic jokes that'll stop their services.

Arroyo: You can't tell them now.

Lewis: No, of course not.

Arroyo: But you can tell me when we're finished.

Lewis: So these two Jews... no [Lewis makes the sign of the cross].

Arroyo: That's what I like, to see, Jerry.

Lewis: And that's not easy when you're a Jew [winks].

Arroyo: I know, I know, but that's good, it's good practice. Um, tell me who do you consider funny today. I'm going to give you some names...

Lewis: Robin Williams...

Arroyo: Oh, but he's gone.

Lewis: What he did is not gone. Billy Crystal...

Arroyo: Oh hilarious.

Lewis: I mean...

Arroyo: Jimmy Fallon...

Lewis: He's a beginner. He's got a long way to go. But he's doing well, he's doing well. The fact that he's doing the third show makes it well. Jimmy Fallon could never ever be like the old comics that we remember. He could never do what I do because he had too many years on Saturday Night Live, which was a series of this is what you will do and that's what we're shooting next. No point of view. No contribution. They just did what was on the credit...on the cue card. And I think Jimmy is suffering from that kind of work. And watch him in about a year. You're going to see a development of this kid that's going to be so wonderful.

Arroyo: What about Stephen Colbert?

Lewis: I don't like him.

Arroyo: Why not?

Lewis: I think he's a snob. I think he's elitist and snob.

Arroyo: Hmm Tina Fey...

Lewis: Ah, wonderful.

Arroyo: Really?

Lewis: Brilliant, brilliant, everything comes from her brain. Marvelous.

Arroyo: I want to talk about some quick contemporary events. You are beloved in France.

Lewis: Don't forget it [makes funny look off camera].

Arroyo: The French Legion of Honor.

Lewis: And the Commander of Arts and Letters.

Arroyo: You are adored there. I mean, when you show up at Cannes or... it's, forget Angelina Jolie or anybody else. It's Jerry Lewis everybody wants to see.

Lewis: Pretty much.

Arroyo: And humble, too...[Lewis smiles]. When you watch what’s been happening on CNN and on Fox, ISIS blowing up, shooting people indiscriminately — what went through your mind as you saw this?

Jerry Lewis: You gotta remember something. ISIS has attacked the world, OK? And all of a sudden I’m wondering, where are all of our NATO allies? Why don’t I have Germany, and Italy, and Great Britain? Why don’t I have all of them, including Spain, doing something? Get all of your military together, bring that military to our military, and wipe ’em out. They’re asking to be stopped. And we’re not stopping them, we’re just reporting what they’re doing. That’s ridiculous.

Arroyo: And what do you think about the refugees?

Lewis: The refugees should stay where the hell they are.

Arroyo: They say there’s a humanitarian crisis. They’re fleeing. They have to come to America...

Lewis: Hey, nobody has worked harder for the human condition than I have. But they’re not part of the human condition, if 11 guys in that group of 10,000 are ISIS. How can I take the chance? I don’t want to lose another Frenchman or another Englishman. That bothers me. You can’t really knock the president [Obama] per se because he was never given to understand that’s out there. He was never ready, never prepared for it. And what I’m watching in him is uncertainty. And you don’t have uncertainty in a leader. A leader doesn’t give a s___ what he does, but he gets it done.

Arroyo: Politics: I know you watch it. I see you watching news every minute of the day. What do you think of Donald Trump?

Lewis: I think he’s great.

Arroyo: Why?

Lewis: Because he’s a showman. And we’ve never had a showman in the president’s chair.

Arroyo: Well, you had Ronald Reagan. He was a bit of a showman.

Lewis: Well, that’s different. You can’t make a comparison with Ronald Reagan, because I can do three hours on him with just praise, he was so good.

Arroyo: Alright, final questions: What is the legacy of Jerry Lewis?

Lewis: The legacy?

Arroyo: The legacy of Jerry Lewis.

Lewis: My son.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that funny and honest interview with Jerry. I like it that he said he liked Trump. Comedy is a form of truth. Jerry was good at it because he had courage.