Richard Lewis, Comedian And Curb Your Enthusiasm Star, Has Died At 76

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Getting there wasn’t easy. After cementing his rep as one of the best working stand-ups in the 1980s with a series of cable specials, television producer Wendy Klout paired Lewis with Jamie Lee Curtis for the ABC series “Anything But Love.” It was an amiable variation on the workplace sitcom (in this case a Chicago magazine), but Lewis and Curtis played gamely to their strengths and generated sufficient chemistry to keep the show running despite increasingly poor ratings.

At the time, it felt like ABC was taking a gamble on Lewis, whose entire showbiz identity was built around his stand-up act. Could he make this act work while playing a character within the framework of a sitcom? The series premiered on March 7, 1989, and initially proved popular. It was certainly far more sure of itself than the comedian-led NBC sitcom that debuted four months later. At least Lewis had sex appeal. There was nothing sexy about Jerry Seinfeld.

Lewis was a great actor, but Hollywood only wanted him for yuks. Following the 1992 cancellation of “Anything But Love,” he appeared in a series of direly unfunny big-screen comedies including “Once Upon a Crime,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (though his Prince John is a standout in one of Mel Brooks’ weakest efforts) and “Wagons East” (the film John Candy died making).

Candy’s death shook up Lewis, who’d been battling drug and alcohol addiction for years. He immediately got sober and starred in Peter Cohn’s substance abuse drama “Drunks,” which should’ve been a springboard to more film roles. Though the movie earned decent reviews, it failed to find an audience. Fortunately, Lewis could always make a living as a stand-up, but he wasn’t just a stand-up. He had more to offer. That’s when his former summer camp nemesis came to his rescue.

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