If you don’t already love Richard Lewis, crawl out from under your rock and find one of his articles, books, stand-up specials, TV appearances or feature films. “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” or “Anything But Love” aren’t terrible places to start.
If you do already appreciate the comic’s neurotic, paranoid, hypochondriac tendencies, then the following Q&A won’t surprise you a bit.
Below, Lewis, 70 — who's currently performing on his “Tracks of my Fears” tour, shooting scenes from season nine of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and having a Friar’s Club toilet christened in his honor — chats New York comedy and the new “Curb” season with amNewYork.
Colter, one of the great names in mystery novel history, I’m jealous, I don’t like you anymore, I’m upset with your name.
Eh, I don’t even want to hear your voice anymore. You’re gonna get paid for nothing to be in the “Bourne Identity” volume 900. Well, let’s start over again, good morning.
Thank you for taking the time!
Well, I’m happy too, I’ll be in New York again soon after almost 40 years, it’s unbelievable, but I love playing Carolines.
Has Carolines changed? What’s it like to go back to a venue that’s been around for so long?
Well I started at the original club, there were three of them. When she opened, it was when Letterman got his show in ’82. I paid my dues, but I had a lot of breaks. Letterman was the first huge break for me, he told me “You can come on as often as you want.” In fact, he wanted me to move back to New York and be a writer for the show, but that I didn’t feel like doing. I did the show at least 60 times. He thought my stand-up was too physical for the camera, and he was right, so he set a precedent for me back in ’82, no matter what talk show asked for me my publicist said, “He doesn’t do stand-up on television.” Jay Leno once said I move so far [off camera] that I left the show for about three minutes. But [club founder] Caroline [Hirsch] treated us great, it was like a small living room, I did it about four times a year. I adore her. I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for 48 years, it’s sort of shocking to me.
Wikipedia describes you as specializing in neuroticism, human sexuality and Jewish culture. Is that fair to say?
Well, I could use that as an excuse for erectile dysfunction if I’m all those things at once.
I have to ask, how did you feel when talks first started about another season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”?
I felt almost as excited as the year 2000 when Larry came over to my house and asked me, he says, “I’m doing this thing for HBO,” and said would you mind playing yourself. He was savvy enough to know it would deep-six my acting career. I don’t know why Spielberg would ask Daniel Day to play Lincoln, he picked the wrong Lewis! But I told him, “I’ll do it, but I don’t want to do a cameo. I don’t want to be judged on one two-and-a-half minute scene, I just won’t do it, you gotta give me at least three or four episodes.” And he said it’s a deal, and it worked out. We didn’t realize how long he’d stay away, so we all went on to do different things, you gotta work on your craft. When he came back finally, I forget exactly when he called, but he must have called me and says I’m gonna come back, and that was it.
How did the new season turn out?
Larry is a genius storyteller and a sensational performer to boot. He never would come back, and he always said this to me, unless he thinks he can top the last season. This is the best year of all nine seasons, it’s the darkest, most fearless storyline one can ever imagine. Larry thinks this is the best year he’s ever had.