For me, it was his standup comedy that got my attention, while for others, it might have been his film and television performances. Nowadays, he’s best known for playing a comedic version of himself on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Richard Philip Lewis was born on June 29, 1947, in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Englewood, New Jersey. Lewis was the youngest of three siblings. His family was Jewish, although he was not overly religious. After high school, he attended Ohio State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a focus on marketing in 1969.

Lewis first tried stand-up at an open mic in Greenwich Village in 1971, and it was in New York in the 1970s that he began working within the stand-up comedy scene, along with contemporaries like David Brenner, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor. Lewis made his TV debut in the TV movie “Diary of a Young Comic,” on NBC in 1979. Lewis stared in the satirical film as a New York comic who moves to Los Angeles, in search of fame and fortune. He rose to prominence, as a frequent guest on late-night talk shows, such as “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “Late Night with David Letterman.” He was known for his dark humor and wardrobe wearing all black and using self-deprecating jokes about his own neuroses and addictions. During the 80s and 90s, he became a renowned figure in the comedy world, headlining multiple stand-up specials on networks like Showtime and HBO.

Like many comedians before him and after, he received offers to appear in movies and television. He starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in the sitcom “Anything but Love,” which ran from 1988 to 1992. Lewis was nominated for a Viewers for Quality Television Award in 1991 for his performance in the series. And of course, his portrayal of Prince John in Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) is a timeless classic. He would also dabble in dramas, appearing in films such as the 1995 drama Leaving Las Vegas.

Lewis met his longtime friend, Larry David, when they were both 12, having been born only a few days apart at a Brooklyn hospital. Yet, it wasn’t until much later that they became friends. Lewis said in 2015, “I hated him. We became friendly years later as young comics in New York, but I noticed something one night. ‘There’s something about you I hate,’ I told him. ‘Wait, you’re that Larry David from summer camp.’ And he said, ‘You’re that Richard Lewis.’” According to a report on NBC news.

Larry David had Lewis play as a semi-autobiographical version of himself in the long-running series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a role that he received Screen Actors Guild nomination in 2006 for.

“For most of my life, he’s been like a brother to me. He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I’ll never forgive him.” Larry David said in a statement after his death.

Off and on stage, Lewis was open about his struggles with substance abuse and mental health issues, topics he often incorporated into his comedy. His addictions worsened into the 1990s, prompting Lewis to stop performing stand-up from 1991 to 1994. After ending up in the hospital because of a cocaine overdose in 1994, he got sober. He also helped others become sober, including his “Anything but Love,” co-star Jamie Lee Curtis, posted on Instagram. Lewis would also publish books discussing his addictions.


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GQ magazine included Lewis on their list of “The 20th Century’s Most Influential Humorists”, and he was ranked No. 45 on Comedy Central’s 2004 list of “100 Greatest Standups of All Time.” His comedy specials earned him a nomination from the American Comedy Awards for Funniest Male Performer and an Ace Nomination for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special, to name a few.

Lewis revealed in April 2024 that he had been living with Parkinson’s disease for two years and would stop performing live to focus on writing.

Richard Lewis died at his home in Los Angeles after a heart attack on February 27th, 2024, at the age of 76. He leaves behind a heck of a lot of great comedy for us to enjoy.