Lewis served as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and hosted the live Labor Day broadcast of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon for 44 years. Lewis has received several awards for lifetime achievements from the American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Venice Film Festival, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and been honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Lewis was born on March 16, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey to Russian Jewish parents. His father, Daniel Levitch, was a master of ceremonies and vaudeville entertainer who used the professional name Danny Lewis. His mother, Rachel (“Rae”) Levitch (née Brodsky), was a piano player for a radio station. Lewis started performing at age five and would often perform alongside his parents in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. By 15, he had developed his “Record Act” in which he exaggeratedly mimed the lyrics to songs on a phonograph.
In a December 2015 interview on EWTN’s World Over with Raymond Arroyo, Lewis expressed opposition to the United States letting in Syrian refugees, saying “No one has worked harder for the human condition than I have, but they’re not part of the human condition if 11 guys in that group of 10,000 are ISIS. How can I take that chance?” In the same interview, he criticized President Barack Obama for not being prepared for ISIS, while expressing support for Donald Trump, saying he would make a good president because he was a good “showman”. He also added that he admired Ronald Reagan’s presidency.