At this point in his career, Jerry Lewis holds a one overarching motive for performing in front of live audiences:
To have a ball.
Lewis performed four live shows this month. And you know what?
“I had a ball,” he says.
Lewis is back in Las Vegas after a series of four one-night performances, three on the East Coast and one in Tacoma, Wash. He is now prepping for his first live appearances in Las Vegas in several months, scheduled for May 10-12 at South Point Showroom. Tickets are $45, $50 and $55 (including fees) and available through SouthPointCasino.com or by calling (702) 797-8055.
“I just did four shows, and it felt great, really great,” Lewis said Wednesday morning during a phone chat from his Las Vegas home. “The crowds were great, we did about 2,800 a night. I feel reinvigorated.”
The South Point has a unique place in Lewis’ career. It is the site of his final appearance as host of the “MDA Labor Day Telethon” in 2010 and is owned by his longtime friend Michael Gaughan.
Lewis has been especially busy this spring. He is coming off a quick spree of shows that followed the retrospective format of his most recent live show in Vegas in November at The Orleans Showroom for the taping of the PBS special “An Evening With Jerry Lewis: Live From Las Vegas,” which aired in January. This month, he performed April 4 at the BergenPac Performing Arts Center in Englewood, N.J.; April 5 at Community Theater at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown, N.J.; April 6 at The Theater at Westbury in New York; and Saturday at Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.
The appearances featured clips of Lewis’ career, most notably vintage footage of his days with Dean Martin; singing and joke-telling, and a Q&A session with fans. At the performance taped at The Orleans for PBS, fans in the sold-out showroom were shown rare behind-the-scenes footage of Martin and Lewis shadowboxing and yanking chairs from out beneath each other during breaks on movie sets. Lewis also performed such standards as “Old Black Magic” and “Somebody.” A sample of Lewis’ stage shtick: “Did you hear about the firefighter with twins? He named one Jose and the other Hose-B.”
The Q&A segment is typically replete with Lewis’ improvised, and often barbed, exchanges with fans lining up to address their idol. Fans should know not to bother gushing, “I love you, Jerry.” One fan at his show in Morristown complemented the 87-year-old entertainment legend on how good he looked.
“What did you expect?” Lewis fired back. “A cadaver?”
Asked if he plans to use the same blueprint for his show at South Point, Lewis quickly answered, “That’s like asking Barbra if she’s going to sing.”
Streisand, he means. But Lewis sounds in a happy mood and is ready to have a ball in Vegas once more.
“(Performing live) still means a great deal to me,” he said. “It beats the alternative, right?”
Of that, there is no question.