It's light on biographical details, but Encore's documentary "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" is a must-see for Lewis fans who want to hear from a who's who of the comedy world about how Lewis inspired them.
Eddie Murphy, who starred in a remake of "The Nutty Professor," is nearly giddy when he talks about Lewis' comedy techniques. Jerry Seinfeld calls Lewis the "diamond of comedy" and says the decision by Lewis and former comedy partner Dean Martin to end their collaboration while they were hot inspired him to end "Seinfeld" in the "moment before, not the moment after."
Celebrities like Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Lewis, Carl Reiner, John Landis and Lewis' pal Richard Belzer also chime in. Burnett says Lewis was sexy -- when he wasn't doing his "Hey, lady!" routine.
The Lewis-produced documentary doesn't go into any detail, or even mention, the star's work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Though it ended badly, it remains one of his life's biggest accomplishments, as he helped raise billions of dollars for the charity. And except for Lewis' brief and interesting recollection of joining his parents' stage act as a five-year-old in a tuxedo, details on his early years are also sparse.
But the abundance of testimony to his comic genius is matched with a plethora of clips from his greatest performances, including the classic "Who's Minding the Store?" typewriter scene, a clip Burnett says she could watch on a loop.
"Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" premieres Saturday at 8/7c on Encore. To get viewers in a Lewis state of mind, Encore is airing a mini-marathon of his movies before the documentary's premiere, beginning with "The Bellboy" at 1:50 p.m., and including "The Errand Boy," "The Geisha Boy" and "The Ladies Man."