| Comedy |

Ten Musical Highlights From the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon's 45-Year Run

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of South Florida and help keep the future of New Times free.

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.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind

Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.