After 45 gregarious years, Jerry Lewis bowing out of the telethon game is like Michael Jordan leaving the NBA or Steve Carrell leaving The Office or David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen. Sure, the show will go on, and someone will replace him, but his face and supersilly -- sometimes supercilious -- demeanor are synonymous with the show and MDA awareness.
Under Jerry's wing, the telethon has raised about $1.6 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Associations of America. It's a mammoth undertaking, going on air for up to 21 1/2 hours at a time; we don't know if Jerry takes power naps, B12 shots, or just doesn't sleep at all. We do know that without him, it isn't going to be the same. The man can dart from zany hilarity to dead serious like no other.
In celebration of Légionnaire Lewis' fine work, let's relive ten of the show's finest musical moments.
Pro-Tip: Go straight to the Sammy Davis clip to see Jerry at his nuttiest.
1972 - John Lennon - "Imagine"
It's a short clip, but there's no bigger big shot you can get to support your cause. It's nice seeing the Walrus helping the kids and being backed by the MDA big band.
1974 - The Jackson 5 - "Dancing Machine"
Again with the big guns! For anyone who forgot how much promise a young Michael Jackson had, check him dancing harder and better than his brothers decked out in sparkly white leisure suits, for charity.
1977 - Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin
The boys are back in town! Aside from all the hugging and chops-busting, the combination of these three in their finest tuxes and greasiest hair is classic. Martin is slurring quite a bit, and The Chairman is running shit. Lewis is a little annoyed by standing in the shadow of these giants and is trying his best to be serious, but his classic spastic voice creeps out of his larynx during the bit.
1977 - Kiss
As serious as MDA is, Kiss being serious about it while being projected on a high school classroom movie screen is ridiculous.
2000 - Charo
This clip is so sexist and pretty racist. Tit jokes. Accent jokes. Save the kids. You think they used to do it? He told his boner to stop being a boner! You may wish you could unsee this.
1997 - Jerry Seinfeld
Lewis giving Seinfeld pointers is pretty funny. But then Lewis gets all fatherly and loses control of the bit.
2006 - Celine Dion - "Summertime"
Do not look at her face. Do not make fun of her voice. Save the kids.
1983 - Tom Sullivan - "On the Wings of Love"
Jerry is not playing around when he introduces blind singer Tom Sullivan. Yes, this song is on 90 times a day on Lite FM. Yes, you hate it. But, damn you and your smug ass for making fun of it -- he is disabled, and he is helping the disabled.
1978 - Sammy Davis Jr.
This is the Jerry Lewis we love! Spazzing and being a screwball. We thank the great Sammy Davis Jr. for bringing out the best in him.
2009 - Fab Four
As long as they don't get this fake Ed Sullivan to replace Jerry Lewis, everything will be fine. The kids will continue to be saved.