Richard Lewis, Stand-Up Legend, Dies @ 76

February 28, 2024

Richard Lewis, acknowledged as one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time, died at 76 of a heart attack on February 27, 2024.

This 1974 appearance kicked off 50 years of Richard Lewis. (Image via NBC)

His death comes less than a year after he retired from stand-up due to a Parkinson's diagnosis. He also battled alcohol and drug addiction, as well as body dysmorphia and depression, using them all to craft a one-of-a-kind stage persona that made people laugh ... and think ... and feel.

Lewis was a writer first, but made his stand-up debut in 1971, and took The Tonight Show by storm in 1974.

Countless talk-show appearances and a 1979 TV special called Diary of a Young Comic (1979) propelled him into household-name status in the '80s.

His biggest hits were on TV, as the lead opposite Jamie Lee Curtis on Anything but Love (1989-1992), and on over 20 years and 40 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-2024).

“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. “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.”

Lewis's only real shot at being a leading man (Image via ABC)

Curtis writes, "He made me laugh, which is the one thing that a strong, capable woman, can't really do for herself. He got the part when I snort laughed when he mispronounced the word Bundt cake."

She goes on, "He used to hide his lines everywhere on the set, on props, door frames, on my face in a close up and was always carrying a clipboard with his lines on them. It turns out he was a wonderful actor. Deep and so freaking funny."

As for his use of his pain in his humor, Curtis notes, "He also is the reason I am sober. He helped me. I am forever grateful for him for that act of grace alone. He found love with Joyce and that, of course, besides his sobriety, is what mattered most to him. I'm weeping as I write this."

Lewis often played himself — or "himself" — but also acted in such films as Once Upon a Crime (1992), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), Wagons East (1994), Drunks (1995), Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Vamps (2012) and more.

On TV, he was a regular on Harry (1987), Daddy Dearest (1993) and Hiller and Diller (1997-1998), recurring on Rude Awakening (1998), 7th Heaven (2002-2004), 'Til Death (2010) and Blunt Talk (2015).

He is survived by his wife, Joyce.

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