Richard Lewis gets serious

By RICHARD ANTONE  |  February 18, 2011

EVEN IF YOUR IMAGE IS ONE OF ANXIETY, YOU LIKE WHAT YOU DO. 
I do. This is the only thing that makes any sense to me. People will say, "How can you be so neurotic and so anxious?" I am. I have been in therapy in and out for almost four decades. Did go to rehab. Without working on my personality or alcoholism, I wouldn't be talking to you. I'm in recovery. I've got a great marriage, so I'm really grateful. Early on, I didn't know what grateful meant. It's like I was on a mission. I sold out Carnegie Hall in 1989. When I walked off stage that night, I thought, "Everything else is dessert," not knowing I had five more years of trying to kill myself with drugs and alcohol. Right now, I'm at the point in my life where I'm trying to really enjoy that I dedicated myself to the arts and this art form in particular. Forty years on, it's still the thing that gives me the most joy. To hear people laugh for 50, 60 minutes because of you, to get them out of their skulls, is a pretty good way to pay the bills. I was smart enough to get help and be mentored and listen — "Shut up and listen!" Same way I got sober. With comedy, it's not as dire as being in the streets being a drug addict, but it's still important to listen to people who've gone through what you've gone through and made it. I did it. One kept me alive and one taught me the ropes.

WITH ALL THE COMPARISONS MADE BETWEEN YOU AND OTHER COMEDIANS, NOBODY MENTIONS RODNEY DANGERFIELD. 
Absolutely. Rodney was a good old friend of mine. He liked my work. Rodney came over to me once, and he said, "I like you. You've got a persona. You know what you're doing." You can't have a stronger persona than "I don't get no respect."

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Related: Interview: Damon Wayans, Down the Tubes, Interview: Richard Lewis, More more >
  Topics: Comedy , Television, Johnny Carson, Rodney Dangerfield,  More more >
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