Anything but Heckling

Your parents probably remember him for his alcohol-soaked stand-up in the Eighties, or his will-they-just-kiss-already sitcom with Jamie Lee Curtis, Anything but Love, but you know Richard Lewis as Larry David’s friend in need of a new kidney on Curb Your Enthusiasm. With more than 30 years of comedic experience, more late-night talk show appearances than anyone else, and an entry in the Yale Book of Quotations (he coined the phrase “the blank from Hell”), such a star could easily be the interview from Hell. But when we recently talked to Lewis from his home in Los Angeles, he was the most gracious, humble, and hilarious gentleman.

“I’ve been sober for almost thirteen years, but I’ve always been a people pleaser. If you ask me, I’ll wind up giving you all the money I make ... if I make any money. I’m raped financially when I play these clubs, but I don’t care,” Lewis says of his Improv gigs. “I do these to continue to fuel my bottomless pit of low self-esteem, knowing that the club owners are laughing behind my back, counting their cash while I’m onstage.” He does have a soft spot for the Improv, though, since that is where he got his start. “If I’m going to have my last show, I would rather collapse on an Improv stage.”

With a heart as big as his bones are funny, Lewis also serves on the board of the nonprofit organization Urban Farming, “which helps feed the homeless, because obviously the government doesn’t care that much about the people who are starving,” says Lewis. His wife, Joyce Lapinsky, whom he married just last year, works for the charity. “So life is good. I’m touring, I’ve created a TV show that I’m pitching to networks, and I’m starting the sixth season of Curb, and I’m alive,” he continues. “Probably the greatest thing of all, having been sober over twelve years ... is that no matter what I’m doing ... if I get a phone call from somebody in need, everything stops. To be able to nudge somebody in the right direction, and in many cases see that person literally stay alive and turn his or her life around, is one of the great things that makes me feel good.”

We’re sure the success of that little cable show also makes Lewis feel good. “Larry David I’ve known since I’m a kid. Curb is a cult show ... people either love it or they don’t get it or they don’t have HBO. But if they get it and they love it, it’s insane. I did a concert in Connecticut [for] about 1500 people, and there were teenagers to people well into their Sixties who have known me since I started doing the Tonight Show in the Seventies. It’s really great.”

If you have never seen Lewis onstage, be prepared for anything. “I’m a fairly hip guy, and I have literally a bottomless pit of dysfunction and material. And in my laptop I have at least fifteen to twenty hours of stuff that I’ve never said before, so I just scroll it constantly before a show, and whatever sticks to my brain, I say it,” Lewis states. “I love stand-up; anything else that happens in my career is just dessert.” See Lewis doing what he loves best at the Miami Improv. He has two shows tonight (8:30 and 10:45), three on Saturday (7:45, 10:00, and 11:59), and one on Sunday (8:30). Tickets cost $21.40 and $23.54. Call 305-441-8200, or visit www.miamiimprov.com.
Nov. 24-26

 
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