Richard Lewis, stand-up comic and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ star, dies at 76


By AGENCY

US comedian Richard Lewis died in his Los Angeles home on February 27, he was 76. Photo: Reuters

Comedian Richard Lewis built a career on making himself a punchline, but in HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm sincerity was his specialty.

As a fictionalised version of himself, Lewis often injected the long-running cynical comedy with wholesome lines about the decadeslong friendship he shared with co-star Larry David. “When I die, I want you to know how much I care about you,” Lewis tells David in a minor squabble about his will during the show’s final season. “You’re my best friend.”

For more than 20 years, Lewis – often appearing in his signature dark clothing and round sunglasses – channelled his bond with David and his self-deprecating humour to become a beloved fixture on the comedy classic.

Lewis died Tuesday (Feb 27) “peacefully at his home in Los Angeles.” He was 76.

Lewis’ publicist Jeff Abraham confirmed to The LA Times that the comedian died after suffering a heart attack. “His wife, Joyce Lapinsky, thanks everyone for all the love, friendship and support and asks for privacy at this time,” Abraham said.

HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is just a part of Lewis’ legacy, which included a stand-up comedy career spanning decades, a memoir about his sobriety and appearances in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Leaving Las Vegas.

In April 2023, Lewis detailed his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, which derailed his decadeslong stand-up comedy career. “After 50 years almost, I’m gonna just call it quits,” he said at the time.

“R.I.P. to a true original @TheRichardLewis,” comedian Bill Burr wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “An absolutely fearless comedian who did and said what he wanted.”

“His comedic brilliance, wit and talent were unmatched,” HBO said in a statement shared with Variety. “Richard will always be a cherished member of the HBO and Curb Your Enthusiasm families, our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and all the fans who could count on Richard to brighten their days with laughter.”

Richard Lewis and his wife Joyce Lapinsky pose on arrival for the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year annual benefit gala dinner and concert in Los Angeles, California on February 5, 2015. Richard Lewis and his wife Joyce Lapinsky pose on arrival for the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year annual benefit gala dinner and concert in Los Angeles, California on February 5, 2015.

Lewis began his career in his 20s performing at New York’s Improv and was taken under the wing of David Brenner, who was known as the king of observational comedy. He found his footing in dark comedy, bringing his struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction and his broken family to the stage.

“It’s great to be here, it’s great to be in a city that means more to me than my family, quite frankly,” he said to welcome audiences during a set in 1990.

Aptly known as the “Prince of Pain,” Lewis wasn’t shy about letting audiences know about his afflictions. His TV specials played into this persona, including I’m Doomed, I’m In Pain and I’m Exhausted, preceding his days on Curb.

Lewis gained popularity following appearances on several shows including Late Night with David Letterman and The Howard Stern Show in the 1980s and 1990s.

Before he was on Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2000, Lewis appeared as a fictionalised version of himself in Diary of a Young Comic, a TV movie about the L.A. comedy scene, and films That’s Adequate, Once Upon a Crime... and Game Day.

In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Lewis is a loyal friend to David, constantly going along with his petty grievances against those around him. However, in real life, that friendship took time. Lewis and David first met as preteens in a childhood sports camp, Lewis said in a 2023 interview with the Spectator. “I disliked him intensely. He was cocky, he was arrogant,” he said.

“We were arch rivals. I couldn’t wait for the camp to be over just to get away from Larry. I’m sure he felt the same way,” he said.

Richard Lewis (left) with Larry David in a scene from Season 10 of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. Photo: HandoutRichard Lewis (left) with Larry David in a scene from Season 10 of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. Photo: Handout

Reconnecting in the New York comedy scene years later, Lewis and David gave friendship another shot – paving the way for decades of on-screen bickering and memorable exchanges.

“Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me,” David said in a statement shared with the Associated Press. “He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I’ll never forgive him.”

Lewis also appeared in 2012’s Vamps and 2014’s She’s Funny That Way, as well as the TV series Anything But Love, Daddy Dearest, Hiller and Diller, 7th Heaven, ’Til Death and Blunt Talk.

“I went into this for psychological reasons,” Lewis told The Times in 2014. “My family – it wasn’t an abusive family – they meant well, but they were in their own world.” – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

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