Apparently a lot of people are aghast that Jerry Lewis wasn’t hosting this year’s Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day telethon. There are claims Lewis was forced out suddenly because of something he said recently and speculation that he was hesitant or evasive in explaining his departure. Conspiracy theories abound. People are outraged.
I don’t get it. Yes, over the course of 45 years, the man has reportedly raised more than $2 billion with the telethon. That’s commendable. But what was he going to do, stay until he was doing his last telethon from his death bed? Lewis is 85 years old. He had hung on far longer than most celebrities do. He’d overstayed his welcome; it was past time for him to go.
Gratitude for his work? Sure. Respect? Absolutely. But fund-raising is a business, too. Unless Lewis had an ironclad lifetime contract guaranteeing he could appear until the day he died, he has no complaint and neither do his fans. Personally, I always found his humor juvenile and tiresome and I’ve never watched him. I’ve been not watching him for so long I’m exhausted. I also don’t watch telethons; I don’t like being begged for money during every station break. If I want to donate to a particular organization, I do it, and I’m probably more likely to do it if they don’t run up their overhead with annual telethons and fundraisers.
Lewis has been an American comedy icon for decades, and I’m sure millions will miss him. But I don’t think his departure from the MDA telethon was any kind of conspiracy, inappropriate firing, or surprise. Not when Lewis himself announced his retirement back in May.