Today, comedian/filmmaker/activist Jerry Lewis is 81 years old. I have seen a few of his films, and they're OK, I suppose. What really makes me a fan of Jerry Lewis is his annual Labor Day Telethon, held since 1966, which raises money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
Every Labor Day, I try to watch with my family at least a little bit of the telethon. In the past 40 years, Lewis has helped raise over two billion dollars for MDA. That is a staggering number.
So many celebrities seem to hitch their wagons to the "hot charity of the day", and if that raises money and awareness, then great. But Jerry Lewis has worked for decades to help these precious people. In fact, my generation doesn't really know him as an actor or comedian, but as an activist and advocate for those who suffer from neuromuscular disease. He's a cut above the rest of Hollywood, in my view.
From time to time, the Academy Awards give a worthy person the "Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award" for work on charitable issues and causes. Worthy recipients in the past have been Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Paul Newman, and Elizabeth Taylor. Despite his obvious success and dedication, Lewis, who has probably done more for charity and humanitarian causes than any person in Hollywood history, has never received this honor. My hope is that Hollywood wises up (in more ways than one, I suppose) and awards Jerry Lewis a statue for his philanthropic work. It is well deserved and long overdue.