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Richard Lewis Mourned by Curb Castmates, Fans, Friends, and Peers in Moving Tributes

Comedian and actor Richard Lewis poses for a portrait at his home in Los Angeles on Feb. 20, 2020. Credit - Emily Berl—The Washington Post/Getty Images

The death on Tuesday in Los Angeles of actor and stand-up comedian Richard Lewis at age 76 sent a shockwave of grief through the entertainment industry.

Lewis—who succumbed to a heart attack, his publicist said Wednesday, and who revealed a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis last year—was famous for his distinct, self-deprecating brand of dark humor and had a career that spanned decades.

“​​Richard Lewis was part of a changing of the guard in stand-up history during the 1970s; his work exemplified and anticipated the deeply personal, raw, introspective and yes, neurotic, tone that has come to color so much contemporary comedy,” National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson said in a statement after news of Lewis’ passing.


Lewis was a frequent guest on late night shows, including having appeared on Late Night With David Letterman 48 times, and he was renowned for his openness about his own personal struggles. He gave himself the nickname “the Prince of Pain” and produced acclaimed comedy specials throughout the 1980s with titles including “I’m in Pain,” “I’m Exhausted,” and “I’m Doomed.” After becoming sober in the ’90s, Lewis published a memoir, The Other Great Depression: How I’m Overcoming, on a Daily Basis, at Least a Million Addictions and Dysfunctions and Finding a Spiritual (Sometimes) Life.

As an actor, Lewis was originally best known for his roles in the 1989 ABC sitcom Anything but Love, starring opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, and in Mel Brooks’ 1993 film Robin Hood: Men in Tights, in which he played Prince John. But Lewis’ popularity surged in the 2000s after he began playing a version of himself in Larry David’s HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Richard Lewis and Larry David in an episode of HBO sitcom <em>Curb Your Enthusiasm</em>.<span class="copyright">Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.</span>
Richard Lewis and Larry David in an episode of HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm.Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Lewis’ passing has opened a floodgate of moving tributes and remembrances from former castmates and other friends across Hollywood and beyond.

“Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me,” David said in a statement after Lewis’ death. “He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I’ll never forgive him.”

Screenwriter and director Robert B. Weide, who produced the first five seasons of Curb, posted on X (formerly Twitter) photos of him and Lewis over the years. “Reeling from the news. The suddenness of it. I love you, Pal. Always have. Always will,” he said.

Curtis, Lewis’ Anything but Love co-star, took to Instagram to express her grief, sharing a gallery of photos of them together together on set alongside a message saying: “Rest in laughter, Richard.”

Cheryl Hines, who played David’s wife on Curb, posted that Lewis was “one of the most loving people I know” and “would take time to tell the people he loved what they meant to him. … To be loved by Richard Lewis. A true gift.”

Susie Essman, another co-star from Curb, called Lewis “an original brilliant voice that can not be replaced.”

“Besides your remarkable talent there was no one sweeter or more generous than you,” Lewis’ Robin Hood co-star Cary Elwes posted on X.

Joely Fisher, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) secretary-treasurer and actress in 2006 sitcom ’Til Death that Lewis guest-starred in, wrote on X: “Rest well funny, sweet friend.”

Some shared personal anecdotes and memories of crossed paths.

“I never met a kinder, more empathetic comedy genius. He was so funny. And deep,” said Ben Stiller. “As a kid i remember seeing him at the Improv and how nice he was to me and my sister. Over the years he would always reach out with support and love or a kind word - sometimes out of the blue. It always felt special to hear from him.”

Simpsons writer and producer Mike Scully posted on X: “Ran into Richard Lewis in Improv bathroom 1982, said I’m a fan. RL: ‘Thanks. You a comic?’ me: ‘no, just open mics’ RL: ‘Do you go on stage?’ me: ‘yeah’ RL: ‘Do you tell jokes?’ me: ‘yeah’  RL: ‘Then you’re a comic.’ He could’ve just said thanks and left. Never forgot it.”

“First time I saw Richard Lewis perform was at Carnegie Hall in Dec 1989,” stand-up comedian and actor Jeffrey Ross wrote on Instagram. “I was just an aspiring comic in the crowd and Richard’s performance showed me that you don’t have to play guitar or write songs to be a rockstar.”

“I will be lost without our daily phone calls,” said folk singer-songwriter and musician Todd Snider, who shared a close friendship and mutual admiration of each other with Lewis.

Canadian comedian David Steinberg wrote on Instagram: “Richard you were one of a kind. The best kind. I treasure our friendship over the years. I love you and I will miss you.”

Sports and news commentator Keith Olbermann shared: “I have never had a brother. From the day he came up and said hi in 1989 Richard Lewis and I called each other ‘brother.’ I used to kid him: if people knew how good and kind a person he was, it would ruin his career. He will always be with me.”

On Wednesday’s Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon took a moment to honor Lewis’ passing, recalling how he used to impersonate the late comedian. “He was a good friend of the show, a great guest,” Fallon said. “I think he was one of the greatest comedians to ever do it. … He was unbelievable.”

Jimmy Kimmel Live! host Jimmy Kimmel and guest Bob Odenkirk similarly paid their respects to Lewis, who Odenkirk called a “great, great, stand-up comic” who was “in touch with everybody.” Both Odenkirk and Kimmel said they had just been texting with Lewis in recent days. “We always have him to thank for that very personal [type of] comedy that he blazed the trail of,” Odenkirk said.

Rex Chapman, NBA veteran and social media personality known for his openness about his own recovery from addiction and path to self-acceptance, said on X that he and Lewis became friends through Twitter and that Lewis “would send friendly little messages from time to time over the past few years while he battled health issues. What a guy. Rest in peace, Richard.”

And Ellen DeGeneres Show producer Andy Lassner detailed on Instagram how the late comedian was persistent in helping him overcome addiction: “He was the menschiest of mensches. And I guess what I want to say is he was one of the many angels in my life who saved me. And my regret today is not staying in touch. Life is fleeting. Stay connected.”

Podcast host and comedian Doug Benson remembered Lewis as a personal inspiration. “His encouragement was the push I needed to keep going in a field that can be not encouraging at all.”

Many comedians across generations—from Bette Midler to Bill Burr—mourned and honored Lewis on social media.

Albert Brooks called him “a brilliantly funny man who will [be] missed by all.” Judy Gold said, “There are no words. He was a gift. He was hilarious. He was kind.”

Patton Oswalt and Paula Poundstone simply shared photos.

“So much legacy comedy you have left here,” said Tim Allen.

Adam Carolla called Lewis, “One of the greatest, most talented men I’ve ever met.” Dane Cook called him “a champion.” Loni Love called him “the best … lovely, hilarious and authentic.” Michael McKean called him “a very good man.” And director Paul Feig called Lewis his “hero.”

“Sleep well Richard,” Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who had Lewis as a guest several times on his Comedy Central show and was frequently said to physically resemble the fellow comedian, quipped, “I’ll try to take good care of our face.”

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