Lewis' stand-up career began in the 1970s when, as an advertising copywriter, he discovered the best copy wasn't about the products or people he was supposed to tout, but himself. He got laughs from his bosses, not bonuses, but this only provided direction and motivation for his stand-up open mic forays. The saying goes, talk about what you know, and Lewis took it to heart, placing his troubles, woes, Jewish upbringing, monetary struggles, drug and alcohol addictions, and love life on stage. He could talk about himself and people would laugh. It was an ironic therapy, a cathartic acceptance, and one that has sustained Lewis' career for more than 40 years across comedy clubs, late-night TV and cable comedy specials, Super Bowl commercials, movies, sitcoms, and best-selling books.
Now, after a four-month hiatus -- the longest of his career -- Lewis is eager to get his show back on the road, beginning with a stint at Phoenix's Stand Up Live on July 19 and 20. Jackalope Ranch caught up with Lewis by phone in a mysterious location to discuss his early comedic days, recovery from addiction, and the turning points in his career. It wasn't the interview from hell, but Lewis is, admittedly, prone to chattiness.
Spolier alert: Though Lewis clearly expected it, we did not ask why he wears all black.
Richard Lewis: Hello. What can you ask me that hasn't been asked in 43 years of interviews? Find some fucking gold, I beg of you. I'm putting on the pressure now, what do you think of that?
Jackalope Ranch: A little pressure is a good thing. I'm certain to ask things never before asked. If you ask me why I wear black, I'll give you a pass. Should I just get it over with?
Actually, it's not even on my list of questions. I heard about that, that's why I called . . . I get you who doesn't ask questions about black clothes. I can't be better off . . . I heard you ask color-coordinated questions.
Certainly, I . . . After 43 years of nonstop performing I took about three and half, almost four months off for the first time in my life since I was about 22. So I'm really looking forward to getting back . . . I have black under my eyes already; I'm so toughed up about it. And if I'm alive, I'm here next Friday and Saturday.
Let's hope so. It's a good thing to plan for. Well, thank you.