by Jim Ridley
This week's Scene features a true meeting of the minds: managing editor Jack Silverman in conversation with comedian Richard Lewis, who's appearing at Zanies through Sunday night. It's one of the funniest Q&A's I've read in a long time, touching on everything from Lewis' involvement in an upcoming Peter Bogdanovich movie — he plays a redneck — to getting health advice from Keith Richards.
Here's a taste:
When did you start doing standup?
I started when I was 23, in New York City. Played all the clubs in Greenwich Village. '71. With guys like Andy Kaufman, Billy Crystal, Freddie Prinze Sr. We were doing well onstage, but we weren't making any money.
The three big breaks I had, well into my career, were ... Carson of course. But the biggest one on the talk show circuit was when Letterman got his show in '82. And he basically told me, "Listen, you're so physical onstage." And he was right. It's not great for the camera if you're all over the place. ... He says, "You'll come on my show as often as you want and just sit on the couch, and just go nuts on the couch. It's better." I did about 60 or 70 of his shows, and that bumped me.
But I didn't really break until 17 years in, getting a TV show [Anything But Love] with a four-year — which should have have been a five-year — run. We got screwed out of it, really fucked out of it by executives. With Jamie Lee Curtis. And all of a sudden, 30 or 40 million people are seeing me, and within a month I'm selling out Carnegie Hall. That's just the luck of the draw.
And then, at 49 or 50, Larry David came over to my house and asked me, would I play myself on his show.
You were already good friends at that point, right?
Here's the deal. I was born three days before him. I was born very premature — immature. I was in the same ward as he was, when he was born three days later. But we didn't know each other then. And then I went to this sports camp when I was 12 or 13. ... And Larry David was there. And we were arch rivals. I mean the worst human beings. The long story short is that I really despised him, and he hated me. We were pretty good athletes and we were rivals.
And then about 12 years later I was already a stand-up, and he came in and watched me, and he loved my work, and he went on, and I loved his work, and we became inseparable. ... So one night I must have been putting a few back, and I was looking at his face, in an almost Roman Polanski way, like Rosemary's Baby. He looked like Larry's Baby. I said, "I know you, man!" And he got all shaken up, and said, "What are you doing?!" I said, "I'm not drunk, man. There's something about you that's satanic." I was sort of putting some words in there to scare him. He gets freaked sometimes.
So we retraced our childhood, and lo and behold, we were the two guys 13 years before. We fucking laughed, man. It was funny. ...
If Larry David and I walk into a Jewish service in a temple, it will pretty much be the end of the service.
Do you go to temple?
Uh, no. But I've been with him in the streets. We'll walk into a delicatessen. "When is Curb coming back?"
I'm in fairly good health, but even with my doctor doing the most intimate of procedures, he actually says to me ... I'm in a very uncompromising position, and he says, "Is Curb coming back?"
Of course, you know that's one of my questions.
Yeah, but he could take his finger out of my ass before he asks!