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 Davids 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.
Ive been sober for almost thirteen years, but Ive always been a people pleaser. If you ask me, Ill wind up giving you all the money I make ... if I make any money. Im raped financially when I play these clubs, but I dont 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 Im onstage. He does have a soft spot for the Improv, though, since that is where he got his start. If Im 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 doesnt 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. Im touring, Ive created a TV show that Im pitching to networks, and Im starting the sixth season of Curb, and Im alive, he continues. Probably the greatest thing of all, having been sober over twelve years ... is that no matter what Im 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.
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Were sure the success of that little cable show also makes Lewis feel good. Larry David Ive known since Im a kid. Curb is a cult show ... people either love it or they dont get it or they dont have HBO. But if they get it and they love it, its 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. Its really great.
If you have never seen Lewis onstage, be prepared for anything. Im 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 Ive 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.