Richard Lewis: Unplugged
Comedy’s prince of pain heads to South Florida at the top of his game— and with plenty on his mind (as always)
It’s nearly 16 minutes into a phone interview that will go on for well over an hour, and Richard Lewis has yet to answer a single question. “I’m going to try a new tack and hopefully not ramble,” he says later in the one-sided conversation. “How am I doing so far?”
It couldn’t be going any better. When one of the most original and influential stand-ups of any era unleashes a self-deprecating stream of consciousness, the last thing you want to do is interrupt him.
As it turns out, comedy’s Man in Black is rambling for a reason. He’s wrapped up a ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with best friend and show creator Larry David; he’s 23 years sober; he’s happily married to wife Joyce; and, at age 70, he’s back on stage after taking time off last year to recover from various ailments, including a fractured wrist (“I did more shows at Cedars-Sinai the past year than [on stage],” he says.)
Lewis co-headlines this month with Artie Lange at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek with “300,000 hours of material” in his head. “I’m going to be so raw; I might get so provocative in that casino that the people wearing Bermuda shorts won’t have to go in the sun,” he says. “Their thighs and calves will be red by the time I’m off the stage.”
If his Q&A with Lifestyle (which, honestly, was way more A than Q) is any indication, that may be an understatement. (Visit lmgfl.com for the full interview.)
- We’ve finished shooting the ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I’ve seen some of the [episodes]; I think it’s the best season. Larry took a long five-year nap, unfortunately. But he doesn’t go into a new season unless he thinks he has a 10-story arc. The show is ad-lib, but there are some expositional points; otherwise, there’s no story and it would be like those cakes that crumble, whatever they’re called. I used to know. That’s the thing [about being] 70. My brain now … you might ask a question about politics, and I’ll tell you that things aren’t going well for President Eisenhower. “If only Eisenhower would stop tweeting!”
- I’m starting to go bald in the back of my head. So we’re doing some post-production stuff for “Curb,” and I say to Larry, “Why do you always have the camera on the back of my head, you bastard.” … Larry says, “The balder you get, the more episodes I’m [doing].” I haven’t spoken to him in a week. I’m not sure whether I’m rooting for more hair to be in the drain or not. I think I’d rather be semibald and do a 10th season of “Curb.” Then, after that, I’ll be offered a show where I play Uncle Mikey, the guy who [lives] with a chimp.
- I used to use notes on stage; I haven’t in a decade. … I had this sheet that was Scotch-taped together. When I opened it up, it would be about 6 feet long. It looked like a Jewish Christopher Columbus scroll. … When I was younger, I carried this sheet everywhere I went. If I lost it, I would have had to run away with the circus and be shot out of a cannon. The first Jewish clown to be shot out of a cannon. I’d probably go about a foot-and-a-half in the air. And then I’d apologize and offer to pay for everyone’s tickets.
- There are so many different platforms [for comics to pursue today] that I almost want to take a nap thinking about all the work I would have to do. The road was narrower in [the 1970s]. It was like, “Get ‘The Tonight Show’ or you’re done.” So I’d drive to Catch a Rising Star in New York, try to meet as many consensually loving actresses as I could—who were all, unfortunately, waitressing—and work on my act. I wasn’t thinking about protein and probiotics. I was thinking about “The Tonight Show” and condoms.
- Don’t think there weren’t comedy groupies. They weren’t walking around with clown shoes and red noses on—although I know one comic who was into that.
- I had an unfortunate attraction to some unfortunate personalities [during his dating days], and I would parade this Fellini-esque group, one after another, in front of my therapist. … Out of the corner of my eye, I would envision my therapist giving me a thumb’s up. There was never a thumbs-up. … This went on for 15 years, until I met Joyce [his wife of 12 years]—a name that we both despise, but there’s nothing I can do with it. I like Richard; it’s a cool name. But Joyce? If I kiss my wife after saying her name, I feel like I’m kissing my aunt at a Passover meal in Brooklyn in 1957.
- By the way, I have a fascination with clocks. I have a collection of them. … Why was I even thinking about the clocks? Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the phone with you for 3½ days.
- Oh, the therapist. So my wife, when we dated, I had to find some reason to go to the therapist. My therapist loved my wife and knew she was the right one for me. But she just couldn’t take me anymore. The therapist leaned in about an inch away from my face and said, “This is as good as it gets.” And she said it in this scary horror voice, like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Her head spun around on its axis, and she spit this green guck all over my black suit.
- Listen, I’m going to need some oxygen soon. We’ve been talking for 80 minutes. I know because I’m looking at one of my 1,000 clocks.
What: Artie Lange and Richard Lewis
Where: The Pavilion at Seminole Casino, Coconut Creek
When: Oct. 7, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $35, $45 and $55; casinococo.com