Jerry Lewis retires as host of MDA Labor Day telethon

Jerry Lewis announced on Monday that he is retiring as the longtime emcee of the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon. “As a labor of love, I’ve hosted the annual Telethon since 1966, and I’ll be making my final appearance on the show this year by performing my signature song, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’,” the legendary 85-year-old comedy entertainer said in a statement on the MDA website. “I’ll continue to serve MDA as its National Chairman – as I’ve done since the early 1950’s. I’ll never desert MDA and my kids.”

According to the MDA, Lewis has logged more than 900 hours helping the organization raise money to fund research for treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and ALS. “It’s time for an all new Telethon era,” he added. “This year’s six hour prime-time Telethon on September 4 will be spectacular, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.” UPDATE: The cohosts for the 2011 show will be Nigel Lythgoe (American IdolSo You Think You Can Dance), Alison Sweeney (The Biggest Loser), Nancy O’Dell (Entertainment Tonight), and Jann Carl (Entertainment Tonight).

Comments (128 total) Add your comment
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  • Judy R.

    I am so sorry to hear that Jerry Lewis is retiring as host of the MDA Labor Day telethon. He will be missed. I am glad that he will still be involved in the MDA organization.

    • Rita

      Thank you Jerry Lewis for your dedication to MDA and it’s tireless search to find cures for Muscular Dystrophy and ALS. God bless you!

    • Jon

      My apologies, I didn’t know that Jerry was still hosting or that even the telethon was still on.

      • @Jon

        that was my thought too – they still do that?

  • weezy1

    Isn’t this one of the signs of Armageddon? Just wondering…if he’ll reveal WHY he’s done it!

    • dave

      85 years young and not in the best health. That should make the “why” obvious

    • dave

      Or…maybe you’re asking “why’ he’s done the marathon all of these years. Our children need help. We need a cure. Why should there even be a “why”? The man’s all heart

    • Lisa

      He has had many health issues these past two years. The fact that he did LAST year is amazing! Kudos to you Jerry, kudos to you!

  • Lisa

    As a former employee of the MDA, I have the utmost respect for Jerry Lewis. He is a tireless supporter for people in this country who have muscular dystrophy. I wish him well in his retirement. I pray for a cure for muscular dystrophy. That will be Jerry’s best legacy.

  • Trezza

    Hat’s off to Jerry for being so dedicated to his charity and for being a class act – one of the last of the best.

    • topoopon

      Class is subjective. When he isn’t throwing around gay slurs, or threatening to slap young starlets, I GUESS he is classy?

      • Amber

        Don’t forget telling people with disabilities that if they don’t want to be pitied than they shouldn’t leave their homes. What a great representative for people with disabilities

      • @topoopon

        Shut up. He’s done more to help people who need it in his lifetime than you ever will.

      • Dominick

        I have Muscular Dystrophy and am a former poster child. I helped raise plenty of money for MDA, too. Jerry Lewis has said AWFUL things about those of us with MD. So what, we should stretch out our little paws and thank him for the money he’s raised by invoking pity for those of us with MD, while ignoring all the insults he casts our way????

        Lest we not forget, MDA kept a dying comic like Lewis alive and in the limelight. He certainly only seems to be remembered for his comedy, in France. Let’s not pretend he did it all to help people and not to keep himself in the spotlight.

      • 3reddogs

        You have to wonder why it took until 2009 for Hollywood to finally give Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Maybe it’s because they all saw the contempt he seemed to have for the people he was supposed to be helping. Here’s hoping somebody who really cares about these people steps up to take his place.

    • Kathryn

      Trezza – I agree. I find it interesting that people come out of the woodwork to say nasty things about someone just because they can. Yeah, Jerry can say things that are inappropriate, and who among us has not? He is in his 80s, folks. He isn’t as touchy-feely PC as many would like him to be. BUT he has done a lot of good and if he is flawed, so are we. Let’s celebrate the GOOD things he has done on the eve of his retirement from hosting the telethon, can we? Or is it too much for the hypocrites who are just as fallible to bear?

      • Sandra

        @Kathryn, I couldn’t agree with you more. In the time it took some people to make a nasty comment they could have made a donation to the charity of their choice. It doesn’t take much to trash decades of dedication with negativity. Why don’t you naysayers get over it and do something constructive. We are all flawed individuals–get off your high horse.

      • allan

        Very well said.

      • dave

        Agreed. Jerry Lewis has been the name that people have associated with an MD cure since I was a child. He deserves more than these people are giving him. He will be sorely missed

      • Lisa

        Agreed

      • Steve

        Dommick. You are nor screwed up person. First. He only help where no other would when he started. Second, he never received any funds personally for the work he did. Third, The stars only came and appeared because of him.

        Most importunely who the hell are you to complain!

      • @Sandra

        Geez Sandra, a person has a right to express an opinion. Just because a person has done good things in one arena doesn’t mean that they are above reproach in areas where they are not doing good. He didn’t say JL hadn’t done anything good, he said that “classy” was subjective based on other things.

        This whole defense of “why don’t you make a charitable donation” is utterly ridiculous. A comment on EW suddenly makes you aware of what a person does with their time and money? How do you know this person doesn’t give money to charity? Just because he thinks JL isn’t classy for acting inappropriately? That’s a stretch and just makes you look incapable of complex thinking.

        @Kathryn – it depends on what you mean by “inappropriate”. I have managed to go my whole life without making racial or gay slurs. If you haven’t, then you are definitely in no place to judge someone because they think JL isn’t all lightness and good 100% of the time.

  • sheri

    Jerry will be missed so much. I have loved him for so many years for all the hard work he has done with and for the telethon.

  • BonMarie

    Topoopon, can you not see just how ridiculous you sound here? What have you done in your life that would ever be as significant as what Jerry Lewis has done for MDA??

    • Amber

      As one of “Jerry’s Kids” I feel he has probably done more harm than good, especially recently, for people with disabilities because of his antiquated attitudes towards people with disabilities

      • Lanyard

        Uh, care to explain what you mean by “antiquated attitudes towards people with disabilities?”

      • Dominick

        Lanyard – He refers to us as cripples in wheelchairs, living waterbeds, half-persons. We do not qualify as whole people because MD makes us “not whole”. He also said if we didn’t want to be pitied for having MD, we should stay in our houses.

        How is that for antiquated attitudes?

      • Jon

        @Dominick – What kind of meds are you taking? Living waterbeds? Jerry lewis never said any such thing.

      • @Jon

        Yes, he did say it. Do a Google search.

  • Kathy Gordon

    As a parent of a 20 year old son with Duchenne Muscular Dystrohy I’ll miss Jerry greatly. My son wouldn’t be alive today if not for all the money he has raised for research. The world never knew the words Muscular Dystrophy until Jerrys 1st telethon.

  • Next

    And how long before the rumors start that Ryan Seacrest will replace him? Haha.

    • suechip

      Haha, yeah it is true that Ryan seems to always be on the short list for everything. But I say Wayne Newton should replace Jerry.

      • Lizzie

        Wayne Newton…YESSSSS!!

    • Simon

      How does Ryan Seacrest have time to sleep? The guy has like 10 jobs. lol

  • BlackDynamite

    I’d like an audit of where that money has gone, and what has been accomplished. North of a billion dollars? Where are we?
    BD

    • Jon

      @Black Dynamite – Do you have any idea how much wheelchair costs? MDA helped families be able to mobilize their children. When my son was little it was a long time before he was correctly diagnosed, in the meantime he needed a wheelchair to be able to go to kindergarten. All the so-called charities made us fill out forms as to our financial status in great detail and still required us to pay a lot of money for their help. When we went to MDA they simply asked, “What do you need?” And they got it for us. Unless you have been there you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • @Jon

        He didn’t say the money didn’t do good, he said he would like to know where all the money went and what the accomplishments are. If they are that 1 million wheelchairs, a totally hypothetical number, were provided to those in need, fine, but that’s what he wants to know. This is a legitimate question to ask any charitable organization.

        If people would take the time and put their reading comprehension skills to work they wouldn’t get so bent out of shape over nothing.

      • Sandra

        @Jon – I think Jon read it right. The poster asked, Where are we? which I read as asking where are we in terms of finding a cure? Jon was pointing out how the money was available for some much needed personal help. Do you have first-hand knowledge of this? If not, I suggest you refrain from insulting people, that doesn’t help anyone and only makes you look like the a$$ hole.

    • Doug

      an aduit, dont be a fool! I have been to see so many doctors that I could nopt begin to add up what they are paid to see the patients they see. I have had counless tests done and 2 surgeries that cost upward of $100,000 each. I do am one of jerrys kids and I guess i am a little old school, mainly i dont hvae the strength to leave my home, sometimes even to go get the meds i am on or to t he store. I was a poster child to in the 70’s…Jerry deserves sonething other then a kick in the a$$, he may be old but he WAS the money that was brought in. The telethon was older and antiquated, he wanted it that way. It costs millions upon millions for finding cures the supplies the people, the braces and surgeries and doctors visits…hell i am going to see them again…Thank MDA and telethon money! THERE IS YOUR AUDIT!!!!

  • Ellie

    Good riddance to an arrogant, self-involved man who has never been able to have any humility about his part in the MDA. He always made a point of acknowledging his own greatness and support and quite frankly, after many years of watching his arrogance elevate, I couldn’t stand the sight of him. For that reason, I would never give to that cause. Once he’s out of the picture, I’ll re-think that.

    • ArtInChicago

      Ellie, that is silly reasoning.

      • Ellie

        Not silly at all. After many, many years of watching the telethon and seeing many people put forth tremendous, unselfish effort toward a wonderful cause, I would occasionally see Jerry Lewis and how he would complain about how exhausted he was and how he treated so many donors so badly. MDA would have made much more money over these years had they chosen a spokesman with the passion and caring for the cause as opposed to a man who did it for his own glory. To clarify….I’ve donated a great deal of money to MDA, but NEVER via the telethon.

    • Hombre

      Well put Ellie! Bye bye Jerry, we won’t miss your bloated self-indulgent ass! There’s a spot reserved in hell for you!

      • Shania

        just who the hell are you to criticize Jerry?? what have you ever done with your miserable life and how much money have you raised for charity?? Jerry is a saint and is going to heaven, not hell. hell is where you will be, stupid idiot!!

      • @Shania

        Please, stop with the hysterics. If you want to defend Jerry Lewis do so with facts. These ridiculous rants from people saying anyone who criticizes him must not do anything for anyone and must be miserable are so incredibly ill thought out it makes me wonder how you people get through life. I mean, really, because he doesn’t like Jerry Lewis personally that makes him an idiot and a terrible person? This kind of reasoning is obtuse and makes those who make these arguments sound dim-witted.

  • ArtInChicago

    Ya know, flawed people do great things everyday. All these comments about some of the things Jerry said or did. He is a human being and without his efforts, who knows where MDA research would be today. I have watched since 1968 and he will be missed.

    • Ellie

      MDA research would have been ahead of the game with any celebrity; preferably one that did it out of compassion. I’ve watched it for years myself and once saw Jerry Lewis grab a check out of someone’s hand and say “How much am I getting” then proceed to totally ignore that person. Classless and clearly did it for the fame. As I said, good riddance.

      • Dayga

        Totally agree with Ellie. Lewis is self-centered, egotistical, and arrogant to the point of revulsion. I’d never donate to MDA as long as he’s their spokesman. Perhaps once he’s gone I’ll reconsider.

      • Tazey

        What other celebrities have stepped up and put in the time that Jerry Lewis did? He isn’t perfect, but for 45+ years he’s been working for MDA, and he deserves credit for that work.

      • Pat

        Ellie… I guess the telethon people didn’t realize there was a “classy” (DUH) chick like you around who would have done a much better job (DOUBLE DUH)!!

  • Kathryn

    God bless Mr. Lewis – he has given tirelessly of himself. At 85, it is surely someone else’s turn to pick up the microphone. Take a bow, Jerry, and then, rest awhile!

    • joe

      Tirelessly? 900 hours equates to 20 hours a year.

      • Tazey

        And how many hours have YOU put in?

      • Shawn

        The 900 hours represents ON AIR and not the time Lewis puts in yearly. He works several weeks a year for MDA and isn’t paid.

      • c jones

        900 hours is equal to 900 hour long episodes of a tv show. Imagine the size of the DVD set if they ever made one!

    • Steve

      Ellie. You are also one screwed up person to think the way you do. This man worked almost 60 years for free what the he’ll have you done except speak your nonsense. Get a life!

      • Shania

        i agree Steve. Ellie you’re a stupid idiot. you are the one who is a low life person with absolutely no class, not Jerry!! if he grabbed a check out of someone’s hand, it was a joke duh!! don’t you get it? he’s a comic, he makes jokes!! some of you really need to get a sense of humor and a life. geez lighten up a bit. what the hell have you done for anyone?? that’s what i’d like to know. Jerry has more talent than you will ever hope to have.

      • Hombre

        Ellie is spot on. Jerry is all about Jerry. He doesn’t give a damn about the cause, he cares about his place in the spotlight. And to answer your question from above Shania, I give to charity anonomously and don’t need all the fanfare like Lewis.

      • Doris

        That’s rich – Shania telling someone else to lighten up.

        I love when people make classless attacks on other individuals for being classless.

  • C. L. Gregory

    Jerry Lewis was forced out of the MDA. Jerry has always made it clear that only DEATH could end his time as the chairman of the MDA organization. This has to do with a new breed of people who no longer desire to keep the old guard and have replaced the man who single handedly changed how telethons were done. Watch and see, this will last ONE year and it will go the way of every other past telethon. Sad.

    • craazy

      According to the article Mr Lewis said: “I’ll continue to serve MDA as its National Chairman – as I’ve done since the early 1950′s. I’ll never desert MDA and my kids.”

    • Bob

      Jerry’s been a hero for MDA and deserves our collective thanks. But what really struck me about the release was the reference to the “6 hour prime time telethon”. Does that mean the telethon is shrinking in hours? Were they having trouble keeping station clearances?

    • Kevin

      This telethon went the way of every other telethon years ago. It was once a weekend long even with actual celebrities and major corporations. It was must see TV. Now most people don’t even know it even happens anymore. Telethons can be effective but let’s face it, with the changes in media and the way people donate, they really aren’t as necessary. I would say they need to find better formats. Sometimes letting the old guard out and changing things up actually is a good thing.

  • alysnwonder

    a person with cp once told me to always put a person first, for example, a person with disabilites versus a disabled person, he let me in on this wisdom 20 years ago, and to this day i always put the person first

  • John

    Not only a great moneymaker, but a Labor Day tradition. For many years, when Jerry Lewis finished “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” I would get real nervous because the next day was ALWAYS the first day of school. If you can’t support Jerry Lewis, please support MDA. I am losing some friends to this bastard of a disease…

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