TV legend Jerry Lewis slams 'American Idol'

Jerry-Lewis-Idol-TCA

Image Credit: Getty Images

Comedy legend Jerry Lewis isn't an American Idol fan.

The 85-year-old veteran comedian and telethon organizer and took a moment from promoting his upcoming documentary to bash reality TV, suggesting contestants are not worthy of the medium.

"The kids who're on American Idol, they're all McDonalds wipe outs," Lewis told TV critics at their summer press tour in Beverly Hills. "They all worked there and now they're doing [reality TV]." Lewis then shifted focus to weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser, noting networks are showing "the fat lady" dropping weight from more than 300 pounds to 240 pounds. "Who gives a s---?" he asked. "The industry has destroyed itself."

Lewis is the subject of a new Encore documentary, The Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, and noted that he deeply respects TV in general. "I don't allow people in my family to use the term 'TV.' It's 'television,' it's a miracle, and deserves respect."

The comic recalled people rushing home to watch Milton Berle. "Nobody wants to run home and see anything, they run home and hope they see something."

Lewis also didn't much appreciate the trend of putting content on mobile devices. "They put all of their product on the stupid phone," he said. "You're gonna put Lawrence of Arabia on that stupid son of a bitch?"

When a critic asked about people spending time on Twitter and Facebook, an "ohhh" went through the room as critics readied themselves for another take-down, but on this point Lewis was more circumspect: "I think it's wonderful for people who enjoy using it," Lewis said. "When they find out they're getting their life cluttered, they'll make those decisions [to dump the technology]

for themselves. They don’t need to be told by a celebrity that it’s a load of crap.”

The one thing Lewis would not elaborate on was the future of his involvement with his annual muscular dystrophy telethon, which airs in September. Lewis announced earlier this year this fall would mark his final performance in the event, which he’s hosted since 1966. But at press tour he told reporters not to believe everything they read and said he’ll make an announcement the day after the telethon.

“It’s none of your business,” Lewis said when pressed on his telethon participation. “Anything you read, read it twice.”

Comments (167 total) Add your comment
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  • James

    Seriously. Lawrence of Arabia should NEVER be viewed on a smartphone.

    • Holly

      He actually sounds just like Krusty the Clown in the Simpsons episode “The Last Temptation of Krust.”

    • SallyinChicago

      I don’t think “slam” is the right word. Headlines are written to get attention. He’s voicing his opinion and he’s partially right. Most of these reality singers whether Idol, XFactor, et al, started off at McDonald’s and will end there. Idol, XFactor, et al are throwing a lot of wannabe’s out there for the public to soak in. I was just reading where one of the Country singers, ex-Idol, was being paid $1500 for a bar appearance. He’d make more money if he worked McDonald’s for a month.

      • brad

        i don’t know what mcdonalds you work at that you get paid more than 1500 a month.

      • Todd

        So get $1500 for singing one night at a bar or slave away at the fryolator for an entire month. Please tell me that you see the difference…

    • DT

      JERRY LEWIS REALITY SHOW!! I’d tune in!!

  • josephine

    i’ve decided i LIKE jerry lewis! Finally, someone who just says what he means. I can’t wait for the social networking revoly that is sure to come

    • josephine

      *revolt

      • Chuck

        Josephine, you’re an idiot. It would’ve already happened with the inundation of everything out there. Go back to your nursing home.

      • TorontoTom

        Bravo, Josephine! I agree with you – Lewis’ comments made me like and respect him in a way I hadn’t before. (And, Chuck – I think there’s a Jersey Shore rerun on…)

      • @chuck

        Calm down. Not sure why you took Josephine’s comment so personally.

      • laaaady

        I just made a fudgy in my pants.

    • Daniel

      Exactly, Josephine. It’s about time. I mean it’s about time he complains about American Idol. It’s been 10 years and this is the first time he said anything about Idol. I’m glad he got his sleep in.

    • Brett

      Napoleon will be waiting with you. The French love Jerry Lewis.

  • Dude

    I don’t watch much reality tv (The Voice & Idol only) but people like it. & I don’t think it’s bad (besides the ones like Jersey shore, real housewives, etc), but as far as American Idol & Biggest Loser go, theres nothing wrong with rooting for someone & watching them grow. A lot of people like it Jerry, so yea people do give a sh–

    • Ric

      Watch people grow??? Are you watching Biggest Loser in reverse???

    • Ames

      Dude, I agree with you. I don’t watch much reality tv, but I don’t want to get too carried away with the whole “back in my day…” idea. People like it, who am I to judge? I like sports and some people think watching sports is idiotic. If Americans are getting more and more stupid/entitled/artless/whatever, it’s not Snookie’s fault.

      • Lois

        Jersey shores Suck and it should be taken off the air. all they do is get drunk and get layed. Great for kids to watch.

  • Templar

    A lot of sour grapes from a pratfall comedian who was always jealous of Dean Martin’s looks, voice, cool factor and being in with the in crowd. Insert raspberry sound here.

    • abadstroller

      Actually, Dean was jealous of Jerry’s money drawing capacity and, in fact, called him “the money” of their duo. It’s why Dean broke the partnership. They didn’t see each other after the breakup until Frank Sinatra convinced Dean to go on the Telethon in 1976…which Dean did and Jerry famously said to him(in his joy and surprise: “So…how y’been?”

      • Templar

        Dean may have realized that initially Jerry was a bigger movie draw. That’s professional jealousy. On a personal level, Jerry envied Dean’s looks, charm and connections.

      • abadstroller

        Templar: Could be (Dean was quite the hottie back in the day), yet if you read this month’s GQ (which I hardly ever read, but coincidentally read last night) Jerry still got (in the parlance of the day) more than his share of the bread and the broads. Sexist p.o.v. from the swinging Brat Pack days, but there you go.

      • Templar

        Right. But not for the same reasons. Dean would have had women all over him if he ran a fish market. Jerry got them by being successful and wealthy. Even Donald Trump and Hugh Hefner know why they get women,and I’m sure it rankles that looks and charm aren’t what’s doing it.

  • negatory

    that doesn’t sound like a “rant”, just a forcefully stated view. out of all the AI winners and runners up, only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood achieved a lating success and their music is pure shmaltz. since it’s unlikely I’ll ever voluntarily play a Taylor Hicks or Clay Aiken cd, I have to agree with him. not to mention each and every judge comes off as a buffoon. just because it’s an against the grain fact, doesn’t make it a “rant”, EW.

    • Chuck

      Shmaltz? Best selling shmaltz. Next.

      • TorontoTom

        Chuck, don’t you have a Lee DeWyze concert at the mall to go to?

      • Mikey M

        You don’t hear that word much anymore.

    • James Hibberd

      I actually agree, it was a poor word choice on my part … changing….

    • Kiwi28

      Regarding “negatory’s” comment of “out of all the AI winners & runner ups only Kelly Clarkson & Carrie Underwood have achieved lasting success” l felt l had to remind everyone of Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, David Cook, Adam Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Fantasia, Constantine, and more that l just can’t remember at the moment. ALL of them are doing very well. They may not be HUGE in some people’s opinion but they are all doing well in their genres. Constantine on Broadway, Fantasia in R&B, Daughtry in rock, Cook in the same vein as Train or Maroon 5, Hudson has an OSCAR & doing very well both on R&B and pop charts, Lambert on dance and pop, Pickler on country charts, etc. As l said before there are more that l just can’t remember at the moment but they are all doing well in their genre whether it’s Broadway, pop, country, easy listening/mor, and/or R&B. I agree that not all of the top twelves over the years have made it but more than JUST Carrie and Kelly have good, ongoing careers.

      • Huhuno

        I gotta disagree with you on that.. big time. negatory was right. The only idol stars the majority of us would consider successful are Clarkson and Underwood. I quit watching Idol ages back when I realized what a joke it was. That these singers who won didn’t really get anything from it in the end. An example being, I’ve never even heard of Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, and Constantine.

        Hudson was doing good for awhile, now she’s known for losing all her fat on Jenny Craig. Fantasia? Last I saw/heard of her she was promoting a reality show that shows her sob story life that we heard time and time again. And I think we know why Adam Lambert is famous and it’s not for his talent. And I shouldn’t even use the word famous because that isn’t what it is.

  • CTX

    McStars. Perfect! :)

  • Vickie

    Nasty, bitter old man. He has always done charity work to try to hide his true colors.

    • LiLa

      At Lewis’ age and at this point of his life, he’s earned the right to his opinion about the business he’s given so much to.

    • Todd

      Can you believe this guy? Made millions for MS all to cover up his hatred of reality T.V… I mean television. We should just all be mean, bitter and worthless like you. Thanks for setting us straight.

  • Jerry

    I gotta give Jerry Lewis a “Thumbs Up”. These reality shows and talent shows like American Idol are a waste of time and life.

    Prolonged viewing of them surely shrinks the brain.

    I never cared much for Mr. Lewis until now. Suddenly he’s become one of my heroes.

    • Rayme

      I had the same reaction.

  • Amy

    No one has to rush home to watch anything these days because of this little invention called a DVR.

  • rgw1946

    Sorry–Jerry–you have not been funny since to left Dean(for your straight guy)..

  • jamie

    oh shut up Jerry! You old fart!

    • Barry

      Speaking of farts: it sounds & smells like you’re blowing some out of your a$$.

      • Dominic

        Actually this is thoughtful stuff. I don’t want him to shut up, exactly the opposite.

  • irrelethon

    Jerry Lewis is like an old pair of shoes and smells just as bad, with the original socks. A Hawk during the Vietnam war era and a great defender of the corruption at the time. Can’t get enough of his stuffy conceited self.

  • Joe G.

    Have heard and read many comments that Jerry is not the nicest guy in town. I saw him in Damn Yankees and was not impressed. Frankly, one of the ‘McDonald’s wipeouts’ could’ve easily outperformed him.

  • Barry

    Way to go Jerry! You should be programming network TV.

  • avlisk

    I can’t believe anyone would stay home and listen to Martin and Lewis on the Philco when we could see them in a nightclub.

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