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January 21st, 2009
Great Lines
Jeffrey Ross on Roasting Jerry Lewis

Jeffrey Ross: I roasted Jerry Lewis at the Friars’ Club.  And at first I didn’t wanna do it.  And the roast master called me up– in L.A.  I was in L.A. at the time.  Richard Belzer called me up.  He said, “Who the hell are you to say no to Jerry Lewis?  This is the last time you’re gonna have to roast a legend like Jerry Lewis.  Get your ass on a plane.  Do it for me.  Do it for Jerry Lewis.  Do it for yourself.  This is a huge, huge comedy icon.  You gotta come out and roast Jerry Lewis.”  So I do.  And I’m writing jokes for days, getting– ’cause you– you know, you gotta bring your A game when you’re roasting a legend like that.  And to his credit, he was a great sport.  I said– I said, “Jerry Lewis was huge in France.  Then again, they don’t even know when they stink.”  The one thing they said was, “You know, Jerry’s very sort of– sensitive about doing jokes about, you know, muscular dystrophy.  And could you stay away from that?”  That’s all I have to hear, you know.  I’m going right for it. But if you’re saying it to his face, somehow it’s okay.  And I said– I sorta slowed it down.  I had my sorta rat-a-tat-tat delivery.  And I took a deep breath and I said, “You know what, Jerry?  A lotta people make fun of you, but they don’t talk about the good things that you do.  What about the fact that just this past Labor Day a six year-old kid got up out of his wheelchair and walked for the first time to turn off the Jerry Lewis Telethon?”  The subject that they told me not to talk about was the biggest laugh I got, the biggest smile that Jerry made the whole day.

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