MIFF 2016: Talking Pictures – Jerry Lewis: The King of Comedy

Federation Hall, Saturday 6th August
Featuring Alan Finney, Shaun Micallef, Santo Cilauro, Chris Fujiwara, Frank Woodley and Lawrence Mooney

This session was recorded so I will just go over the highlights as I remember them.

There was an interesting mix of speakers including Chris Fujiwara who has written about Jerry Lewis and the Australian comedians who were a mix of working comedians and more senior ones with an interest in Jerry Lewis. Shaun Micallef in particular came across as quite the scholar of comedy and admitted to taping the soundtrack of Jerry Lewis movies from TV so he could practise lines from them.

Frank Woodley hit Lawrence Mooney over the head with an empty water bottle to demonstrate physical comedy is still funny. He also admitted to stealing a couple of jokes from Jerry Lewis for his TV show including one that took 6 months to practice and was only in the show for less than half a minute (the juggling of an funeral urn containing ashes).

Santo Cilauro said that growing up in a non-English speaking household the main things they watched were wrestling and Jerry Lewis movies as they did not require an understanding of the language to follow the story.

Most of the comedians on the panel admitted to being strongly influenced by Jerry Lewis to get into comedy and Shaun Micallef mainly did impersonations of his act during his university revue days.

There was some discussion of Jerry Lewis’ days working with Dean Martin but most of the time was taken up with his movies and that it would have not been the same if he had came along earlier as his comedy relied on people seeing him to work. Also that he plays the loser who wins on his own terms in his movies which is not as popular these days.

Even in his more serious movies such as Scorsese’s the King of Comedy he runs like he is in character and they did have nods to his character work such as the white socks and the scene with him holding the door shut to make it look like the other person was having trouble opening the lock.

There was some discussion on the Nutty Professor that Buddy Love was closer to Jerry Lewis’ real life persona but he still hams it up by having fey punches dubbed in with Hollywood punch sounds.

The movie the Patsy was also discussed with the big finale being a reshoot based on one of Jerry’s routines made to look like it was improvised but it could not have been as there was so much involved.

It was an interesting discussion and I would like to see more Jerry Lewis movies in the future now knowing a bit more about him and his movies.

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