Jerry Lewis Roast
Doors leader Jim Morrison may have died in Paris but France icon Jerry Lewis was alive and ready for the roasting spit by his peers. Muhammad Ali was pretty much KO’d by Joe Frazier that year but it took a lot for the roasters to get the better of Lewis. Rumor has it the roast was bumpier than the first ride the Apollo 15 astronauts took in a lunar rover that year. On the fun-factor scale it was as thrilling for Lewis as it was for those who first walked into the brand new Walt Disney World, in Florida.
Award-winning actor, producer, writer, director–and especially comedian–Jerry Lewis is a true Hollywood icon. From his early films teamed with Dean Martin to his solo career, his slapstick style endeared him to audiences who found the little boy lost quality to his humor captivating. His films “The Bellboy,” “The Nutty Professor,” “The Errand Boy,” “The Patsy,” and so many others have become Hollywood treasures. His dramatic turns have earned him critical acclaim in films such as “The King of Comedy” and “Funny Bones.” His work for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and annual Labor Day telethons is monumental and he has raised millions for the organization. Lewis received the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which is the highest Emmy Award, presented. He has also earned the title of Abbot of the Friars Club and has been roasted and toasted several times over.
Known to a generation of viewers as “Uncle Miltie” or “Mr. Television,” Milton Berle was the undisputed king of TV during its golden age. His popular variety show, NBC’s “Texaco Star Theater” helped to sell more TV sets in the early days of the medium than any other individual. During his tenure as head of the Friars Club he was the master of the Roasts. Nobody was safe from his skewering–or his legendary wit.
With his trademark rubbery face and nervous chatter, Charlie Callas endeared himself to audiences. A staple of variety and late night talk shows, Callas was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” and “The Andy Williams Show.” His work with Mel Brooks and Jerry Lewis consistently produced huge laughs having appeared in such films at “The Big Mouth,” “Pete’s Dragon” and “High Anxiety.” Callas also took a dramatic turn with his role as Malcolm Argos in the TV series “Switch” starring Eddie Albert and Robert Wagner.
Standup comic Jack Carter was a frequent guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show” where he would do impressions of the iconic host-and actually made him laugh. Along with his nightclub act and variety show appearances, Carter also carved a niche on game shows such as “Match Game” and “Tattletales.” As an actor he appeared in “The Rockford Files” and “Sanford and Son.” He was also a favorite roaster of the Friars.
Legendary standup comedian Alan King was one of the new wave of comics who found humor in his personal family life and every day experiences. His often angry but humorous rants earned him a special place in audiences’ hearts as he mirrored their own personal struggles. As a serious actor King appeared in such films as “Casino,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “Memories of Me,” among others. He became the Abbot of the Friars Club after Frank Sinatra’s reign of 20 years.
Rex Reed’s resume includes film critic, television personality, actor and columnist. He is noted for his outspoken commentaries and reviews and people clamber to hear his honest opinions of show business personalities. His famous feud with Frank Sinatra after writing a negative review of Sinatra’s Madison Square Garden appearance put him on the map of critics to keep an eye on and possibly a hit list or two. A regular on “The Gong Show” Reed also found fame as an actor in films such as “Myra Breckinridge” “Inchon!” and “Superman.”
Comedian Don Rickles has sustained a long and successful career doling out insults and trouncing egos on anyone within earshot. A frequent visitor to “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” Rickles has regaled millions with his swiping barbs. Early on in his career, while working at a nightclub, he was brave enough to pick on Frank Sinatra who was seated in the audience, “Make yourself at home Frank. Hit somebody.” Lucky for Rickles, Sinatra found him hilarious and encouraged other celebrities to check out his act. As an actor Rickles appeared in his own sitcom “C.P.O. Sharkey” and such films as “Run Silent, Run Deep,” and “Kelly’s Heroes.” He’s the worst nightmare for any guest of honor at a roast.