Interview: Richard Lewis

Richard Lewis can't stop himself
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  December 17, 2009

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I've always wanted to play personal psychologist for Richard Lewis. Although it's been obvious for decades that his self-doubting paranoia act is not an act, I was curious as to whether he truly tortures himself through every waking moment. Turns out he does — despite such cathartic efforts as his 2001 memoir, The Other Great Depression, and his recurring role as himself on Larry David's HBO free-for-all, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Whichever therapists Lewis employs these days don't have to thank me for allowing him to whine on my shoulder for 40 minutes. It was my pleasure, and I barely had to coax him. Herewith, an abridged version of Lewis's monologue.

How's it going?
Well — I'm up, number one. At this point in my life, I just like to wake up and make sure that it's not Armageddon. Then I turn on the news and see how close we are to Armageddon, and then there's a trickle-down anxiety effect that lasts for about half an hour. Today's not good, because my dream was bad. It was like a Jewish, Fellini-esque dragons-with-skulls-and-ex-girlfriends — and I have nothing against transvestites, but many of them were transvestites. It was Mardi Gras, and I was trying to find refuge, and some family took me in, and when I looked up, they had masks on and it was my real family. You know, I've done these interviews for so many decades that, as I'm dialing, I think about the risk of blurting out everything. I just decided that, on occasion, I can get you up to date on what's going on creatively and emotionally, and then I shut up. But now you've said nothing, and I'm already case-building the paranoia that once we hang up, you will play this tape and say that this guy is clearly obsessive-compulsive, and a recovering addict, which I am. . . .

I love stand-up — it's at the core of my life, but it's ruthless in terms of people ripping people off. It happens to everybody, but sometimes you would almost have to have a trial if someone claims they were ripped off. Half of their stuff probably wasn't even theirs to begin with. . . . I was feeling like a victim about everything, and there were a lot of commercials that were ripping me off, and a lot of stuff went down with the "date from Hell" thing. Larry had a tremendously funny episode, or outline, in which he did surprise me with "Nanny from Hell." It was closure, but of course I went right to the dark part. My wife is not a recovering addict — I mean, she's neurotic, but she couldn't even hold my towel. She said, "How great of Larry to do this," and I couldn't help but think that when I'm gone, people will mostly remember me because of that episode. . . .

It's incredibly difficult to do his show. I don't even know what I am when I'm there. It's only an eight- or nine-page outline, and you don't care about anything other than the scenes you're in. You don't get to see what the show is about — it's like real life. . . .

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  Topics: Comedy , Entertainment, Jay Leno, Stand-up Comedy,  More more >
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