Richard Lewis, Acerbic Comedian passed away at age of 76

The stand-up comedian Richard Lewis passed away on Tuesday at his Los Angeles home. He rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s with his trademark dark and acerbic sense of humor, which he later used to launch an acting career that spanned films such as “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and an HBO recurring role as himself. He was seventy-six. His publicist, Jeff Abraham, said the cause was a heart attack.


Mr. Richard Lewis announced last year that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Mr. Richard Lewis was among the best-known names in a generation of comedians who came of age during the 1970s and ’80s, marked by a world-weary, sarcastic wit that mapped well onto the urban malaise in which many of them plied their trade.

After finding success as a comedian in New York nightclubs, he became a regular on late-night talk shows, favored as much for his tight routine as for his casual, open affability as an interviewee. He appeared on “Late Night With David Letterman” 48 times.

And he was at the forefront of the boom in stand-up comedy that came with the expansion of cable television in the late 1980s. Neurotic and self-deprecating, typically dressed all in black, Mr. Richard Lewis paced the stages of comedy clubs, hanging his head, pulling at his shock of black hair, riffing on his struggles in life and love. He called himself the “Prince of Pain,” and so did his legions of fans.

Richard Lewis

The titles of his many comedy specials from the 1980s tell it all: “I’m in Pain,” “I’m Exhausted,” “I’m Doomed.”

He built some of his anecdotal bits around the idea of the worst possible version of an everyday figure: the waiter from hell, the doctor from hell. In 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations honored him with an entry for “the from hell,” credited to him.

He came by his art naturally — there was no faking his misery — but also through astute attention to the anxiety-inducing and neurosis-triggering details of everyday life. “I’m such a madman — I’m so obsessed about the show, but that’s who I am, as he told to the New York Observer in 2007.

I’m just so wired by my time onstage, my head is filled with images. It’s terrifying, but it’s also exhilarating. I’ll never not work like this.”

But it wasn’t an act. Part of Mr. Richard Lewis’s appeal was his willingness to poke into his own wounds, drawing on his unhappy childhood, his unhappy dating life and his everyday bouts of gaping self-doubt. If it caused him pain to be so open — and it clearly did — it also fueled his success.

He was among the best-known stand-up comedians of the late 1980s. He played a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall in 1989, receiving two standing ovations for two and a half hours of material.

Richard Lewis

“He didn’t assume a character when he walked up onstage,” Billy Crystal, who came up with Mr. Lewis on the New York comedy scene in the 1970s, said in an interview on Wednesday. “He just kind of dragged himself up there. It was refreshing. Sometimes you could see audiences just want to say, ‘Slow down. It’s going to be OK.’” Mr. Richard Lewis soon moved into acting.

He starred as Marty Gold on the sitcom “Anything but Love,” opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, from 1989 to 1992. The show won him critical and popular acclaim and seemed to signal a move to Hollywood stardom. Mr. Richard Lewis suffered a series of injuries in the late 2010s, requiring surgery on his back and his rotator cuff. He performed his last stand-up show in 2018 at Zanies in Chicago. FOR MORE INFORMATION.

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