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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Tributes flow for Jerry Lewis

The American comedic legend passed away at his Las Vegas home

US comedian Jerry Lewis attends a special screening of the feature-length documentary 'Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis' at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California, in December 2011. Phil McCarten / Reuters.
US comedian Jerry Lewis attends a special screening of the feature-length documentary 'Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis' at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California, in December 2011. Phil McCarten / Reuters.

An outpouring of grief from celebrities and fans alike flowed in the wake of American comedic legend and actor Jerry Lewis's death.

Lewis, the comedian who performed with Dean Martin before starring in his own series of slapstick movies during the 1950s, died at his Las Vegas home at age 91.

The quirky actor made a name for himself in slapstick comedies such as "The Nutty Professor", but went on to win acclaim as a writer, actor and philanthropist.

His publicist Nancy Kane confirmed the news in a statement.

"I can sadly confirm that today the world lost one of the most significant human beings," she said. "Jerry died peacefully at home of natural causes surrounded by family and friends."

Fans left flowers at the comedian's two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

One of the biggest stars of the 1950s and '60s, Lewis was once upon a time one of the show business's biggest drawcards.

But he also went on to bigger ambitions after his heyday. Lewis became known as much for his tireless efforts to promote awareness of Muscular Dystrophy as for his wacky comedy, and was later honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and France's Legion of Honor.

Over 45 years, he raised $2.45 billion for combatting the disease with an annual television event.

Tributes from Hollywood flowed after news of his death broke.

"That fool was no dummy," tweeted comic star Jim Carrey, who credited Lewis as one of his inspirations. "Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy's absolute! I am because he was!"

Rose Marie, who found fame as Sally Rogers on the Dick Van Dyke Show and found it again just a week ago when she took Twitter by storm, with a humble plea for followers, tweeted a picture of the two together. The 94-year-old wrote that she would "never forget what he did for me during one of the worst times in my life".

Even the White House posted their tributes. In a statement, they called Lewis "one of our greatest entertainers and humanitarians."

"Jerry Lewis kept us all laughing for over half a century, and his incredible charity work touched the lives of millions. Jerry lived the American Dream -- he truly loved his country, and his country loved him back."

Hollywood comedic royalty posted their own tributes of remembrance, many of whom labelled him as inspiration for their own careers. Comedians from Jimmy Kimmel, to Daman Wayans, to Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg paid tribute to Lewis on social media.

Larry King, celebrity interviewer and Lewis's longtime friend, posted a number of tributes on Twitter. In one, he said: "Jerry lived to make the world laugh, and laugh we did for decades. His talent was surpassed only by his humanitarianism. Rest well pal".

In another, he posted a picture of a hilarious moment between the two.

Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926 - Lewis was bound for show business from an early age. His mother was a pianist, and his father, a vaudeville entertainer, who used the professional name Danny Lewis.

Lewis began performing at the young age of 5, performing alongside his parents. By 15, he had developed his own act and adopted his own stage name: Joey Lewis. He soon changed to Jerry to avoid confusion with comedian Joe E. Lewis, and boxer Joe Lewis. He attempted to enlist for military service during World War II, but was rejected because of a heart murmur.

Instead, Lewis went on to form one of Hollywood's most renown partnerships.

At age 20, Lewis teamed up with smooth crooner Dean Martin. Martin played the straight part to Lewis's crazy and zany antics, and carved themselves a niche in the comedy scene. With that, came a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures.

The partnership broke up in 1956, and both went on to carve out successful solo careers. Lewis's break-out moment came whilst standing in for Judy Garland in Las Vegas, who couldn't perform due to strepthroat. He released several albums and starred in a number of high-profile movies.

He won critical acclaim for a dramatic role alongside Robert De Niro in Scorsese's "The King of Comedy."

Lewis was plagued by health problems in recent years. In 1982, he was declared clinically dead after a heart attack. A decade later he revealed he was battling prostate cancer, and he was later diagnosed with diabetes. Three years after the diabetes diagnosis, he was found to be suffering from spinal meningitis.

But Lewis's work ethic barely wavered despite his ailing health. In 2011, he worked on a Broadway adaption of The Nutty Professor, and directed the musical version in Nashville. He continued to appear in movies and on the small screen until as recent as 2016. His cause of death was not immediately disclosed.