Perhaps Mel Brooks put it best when he said, "Richard Lewis may just be the Franz Kafka of modern day comedy."
Lewis has taken his lifelong therapy fodder and carved it into a commanding, compelling art form. His early career as a stand-up brought him to the top of his ranks and over time he broadened the scope of opportunities so others could share in his brilliantly warped world. The NY Post recently said; “Richard Lewis built the strongest stand-up comedy career on a blazing trail of neuroses since Woody Allen.”
Lewis is 'jazzed' about going into an eighth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” starting July, 2011, and the series pick-up into syndication via the TV Guide Network and Warner Brothers. He his constantly on his "The Tracks of My Fears Tour" and is also now developing his own darkly humorous ensemble comedy. Lewis completed filming VAMPS, a film directed by Amy Heckerling ("Clueless") with Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld producing.. He's "Danny," a former student activist who now works as a lawyer with the A.C.L.U.
SAG nominated Lewis for his work in the ensemble category for his recurring guest star role, playing true-to-life as one of Larry David’s closest friends in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the Seinfeld co-creator’s hit HBO series. The show has garnered many awards to include five Emmy nominations and high praise. Vanity Fair stated, "The supporting cast of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm is a murderer's row of stand-up comedians-Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, Richard Lewis, Cheryl Hines, Shelley Berman--cutting loose in character roles with killer instinct." Through the years Richard has received much kudos for his work alongside his buddy, Larry David. The New York Times commented that, "...not nearly enough of Richard Lewis, whose job is the hardest of all because his character must truly suffer and endure in a context where feelings are as anathema as M&M's in a dentist's office. Never upsetting the show's distinct tenor of emotional apathy, Mr. Lewis here showcases his particular genius through a bout with kidney failure. He needs a new one, and oh, by the way, guess who isn't donating?" The Los Angeles Times added, ..."But it's comedian Richard Lewis--himself famous for an act built on despair--who 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...David and Lewis reluctantly help a blind man move furniture in his new apartment. It's a classic."
Lewis is often compared to a jazz musician for his wild riffs that fly out into space but always find a way to float back into rhythm as they splatter recurring themes against a spiraling, lyrical backdrop. Howard Reich of the ChicagoTribune recently noted, in a piece comparing comedy and jazz,"In Lenny Bruce's fantasy, celebrated writers would say: "This guy is the greatest jazz sound in the world- he's so hip, his name is Lenny Bruce. "To this day, Bruce's foremost heir--comedian Richard Lewis --conveys the lightning energy of a solo by bebop icon Charlie Parker."
Another time Reich 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. The Baltimore Jewish Times said, "Lewis is oftentimes compared to the late Lenny Bruce, the prolific, dissenting comedic voice of the '60's. And the two share many things in common--Judaism, an uncommon intelligence and irreverence for topics considered untouchable. Like Bruce, Mr. Lewis lays his soul bare on the stage, with fearlessness and many times, recklessness..." City Weekly of Salt Lake City concurred, "Nowhere will you find an entertainer so committed to his craft as comedian Richard Lewis....His ability to keep people laughing at his self-loathing and dark views on every aspect of his life is what keeps him one of the greatest comedians of all time."
"After Mort Saul's’ 80th birthday tribute this summer, featuring a who’s who of comic genius, Mark Groubert writing for the web site, Crooksandliars.com, commented.: “But this Night at the Opera belonged to none other than Richard Lewis…..has hit his comic stride entering the free form worlds of both Lenny Bruce and the under appreciated Lord Buckley. Groovin’ high, and dressed in a zippered black suit possibly designed by the mistress of the Dali Lama, the ‘Prince of Pain’ came to compete. Melting the house and forcing grown men to weep openly Richard Lewis bombarded the crowd from one obtuse comedy angle after another. If this was the comedy World Series, Lewis was the King in his Court. For nearly twenty minutes he induced non-stop howling by every living, breathing thing in the house.”
Comedy Central has recognized Mr. Lewis as one of the top 50 stand-up comedians of all time and he was charted on GQ Magazine’s list of the '20th Century's Most Influential Humorists'. Philadelphia’s City Paper says, “Indeed, he is the Jimi Hendrix of monologists, whose virtuoso free-form riffs on ex-girlfriends, family and other antagonistic denizens from hell are delivered in a mesmerizing, stream-of-consciousness frenzy, a piss-yourself-laughing assault on the senses. Not only is he one of the undisputed masters of postmodern comedy, but also to incurable, self-loathing neurotics he is a patron saint who deserves to be canonized”.
Lewis has in release a boxed set of his Concerts from Hell" (The Vintage Years) containing three comedy specials: HBO originally aired "I'm Exhausted," earning him an ACE nomination for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special and I'm Doomed, his second for HBO, also earned an Ace nomination. His cable-special debut, "I'm In Pain" had aired on Showtime. Playboy says, "Kvetching is elevated to surreal art in these great comedy performances. The titles say it all. Don't miss." He's also featured in two books; one an upcoming, high profile book on comedy, “I'm Dying Up Here,” which chronicles the collective coming of age of the standup comedians who defined American humor during the past three decades: Letterman, Leno, Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis and Garry Shandling among others, by author William Knoedelseder. The other is a behind the scenes look at the making of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Additionally, in the fall of ’06, Yale Book of Quotations attributed the now-common phrase, “the ____ from hell” to him in that fresh edition.
An author himself, in 2000, Lewis added author to his credits with his highly acclaimed, autobiographical, “The OTHER Great Depression.” In the memoir he is brave, insightful and forthcoming as he is in his comedy. He disrobes his substance abuse and recovery, skewing it his unique way. First published by the prestigious Perseus/ Public Affairs Books, the book is a collection of fearless, essay style riffs featuring Lewis' dark stream-of-consciousness personal observations. In 2002 it appeared in paperback on Plume Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc. --New York Magazine said, “Lewis’s standard of total honesty [has] allowed him to unearth neuroses he'd never even touch onstage—or on the couch.”; Entertainment Weekly added, [An] urgent, nervous, heartfelt book . . .Lewis writes with an addict’s jumpy restlessness, staggering from hurt to hurt, from tensely jokey confession to confession, from twitchy spiritual discovery to discovery.”; –USA Today said it was “Candid and inspirational.” ; While the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes, “Lewis…has narrative gifts few celebrity authors exhibit.”
In continuing to redefine himself, he has always expanded on his acting career by making unexpected choices. He took on his first dramatic role in the theatrical release, “Drunks,” co-starring Dianne Weist, Faye Dunaway and Amanda Plummer. Built around an AA meeting, he received rave reviews as the central character, Jimmy Epstein, an addict fighting for his life. With scores of other guest acting appearances in TV series and films he tries to be as diverse as possible in his choices from appearing on such shows as "21/2 Men", "The Dead Zone" and "The Cleaner" to such polar opposites in the past such as Alias and Seventh Heaven. Yet, most close to his heart was his four year run in ABC’s critically acclaimed series "Anything But Love," co-starring with Jamie Lee Curtis, "Anything but Love", now out on DVD with Volume One of the four year situation comedy. "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 considered a cult classic. Late night TV viewers 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 well over 100 appearances with Dave, Jay, Conan, Jon and Maher.
Regarded by his peers as a 'comic's comic', Lewis' neuroses have become a part of our language as in the now infamous, "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 full hour-long cable special. In December of 1989, Lewis achieved a very personal goal...he performed at Carnegie Hall to a standing room only audience. To close, in his own words--"I go on a long tour and make people happy that they're not me and go home."