Perhaps Mel Brooks put it best when he said, "Richard Lewis may just be the Franz Kafka of modern day comedy."
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Lewis has taken his life-long therapy fodder and carved it into a commanding and compelling art form. His early career as a stand-up brought him to the top of his ranks and, over time, he has broadened the scope of opportunities for others to share in his brilliantly warped world.
In exploring new forms of self-expression, he took time off-stage to complete a book, "The OTHER Great Depression". The collection of fearless, essay style riffs featuring stream-of-consciousness writings will be in stores by Christmas, published by the prestigious Perseus/ Public Affairs Books. It plumbs new and uncharted depths of Lewis' dark musings and personal observations. In January he's set to begin his "The Other Great Depression Tour" in support of the material.
Lewis can be seen as a recurring guest star as one of Larry David's closest friends (as is true in real life) in the Seinfeld co-creator's new HBO series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Howard Rosenberg, of the Los Angeles Times, said "… comedian Richard Lewis- himself famous for an act built on despair- memorably sulks his way through a pair of early episodes as one of the few people in the business who can match David hang-up for hang-up, neurosis for neurosis." He gives episode #4 timeless measure adding, "..David and Lewis reluctantly help a blind man move furniture…. It's a classic."
In February, Live Archive will be releasing a double CD, Live From Hell (Before and After). Before, is material from his very first cable special "I'm In Pain," while After, captures Richard Lewis free-associating with legendary journalist and author Bill Zehme. Lewis' rants and true-life stories promise an untamed journey.
After a few years of 'non-stand-up' completing his book, Lewis returned to his stand-up roots with the "Wreck In Progress Tour." During an appearance in Chicago, Howard Reich, of the Tribune reflected on his history with Lewis, "(Nearly 20 years ago..). I headed for Zanie's and witnessed the most audacious comic wordsmith this side of Lenny Bruce: a young neurotic comedian named Richard Lewis. Ever since that revelatory evening I've followed Richard's ascent as perhaps the most gifted comedian of his generation." Indeed others agree and Lewis was charted on GQ Magazine's list of the '20th Century's Most Influential Humorists'.
In continuing to redefine himself, he expanded on his acting career by making different kinds of choices. Lewis took on his first dramatic role in "Drunks", co-starring Dianne Weist, Faye Dunaway and Amanda Plummer. Built around an AA meeting, Richard received rave reviews as the central character, Jimmy Epstein, an addict fighting for his life. "Drunks" was theatrically released and aired on Showtime.
Lewis also got excellent notices for his cameo appearance as an agent in another film that dealt with alcoholism, "Leaving Las Vegas". Furthering his 'indie' credits, Lewis also completed the film "Gameday," as Coach Adler, a college basketball coach whose personal life is in shambles but, on the court and in the locker room, he's brilliant. It airs on Showtime and Cinemax. Ironically Lewis had, earlier in life, battled some of the same demons these films address and he is uncompromisingly honest about them in his book. He also co-starred as a psychotic gangster, in "Hugo Pool," a dark comedy from Robert Downey, Sr.
With scores of other guest acting appearances and TV series under his belt, far and away his favorite was his four year run in ABC's critically-acclaimed series "Anything But Love," co-starring with Jamie Lee Curtis. Late night T.V. viewers, Howard Stern fans and media junkies in general are familiar with his frequent guest appearances. He may hold title to having the most late night appearances, chalking up over 50 each on Late Night with David Letterman and the Tonight Show alone.
His second special, "I'm Exhausted," aired on HBO and earned him an ACE nomination as Best Stand-Up Comedy Special. It was part of a self-proclaimed "Trilogy From Hell," which includes the earlier "I'm In Pain" for Showtime and his second Ace nominated special "I'm Doomed" for HBO, all now available on home video. His "Diary Of A Young Comic," which he starred in and co-wrote, first aired on NBC in the "Saturday Night Live" time slot and is now considered a cult classic; also available on video.
Regarded by his peers as a 'comic's comic', Lewis' neuroses have become a part of our language as in, "I had a date from Hell!" In July '95 Lewis performed live stand-up comedy for the first time in over two years with his "Magical Misery Tour." Shot at New York's historic Bottom Line HBO aired the one-hour special in December '96, making it a rare accomplishment in completing his fourth hour cable special. In December of 1989, Lewis achieved a very personal goal...he performed at Carnegie Hall to a standing room only audience.
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