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Richard Lewis saluted by 'Curb' co-stars, said he was 'quite well' weeks before death

Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — Comedian Richard Lewis, who died Tuesday from a heart attack, said that he was "doing quite well" a few weeks before his death, despite being absent from the Season 12 premiere of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

The so-called Prince of Pain, who played an exaggerated version of himself alongside real-life friend Larry David in the HBO series, told People on Feb. 9 that he skipped the Jan. 30 premiere because he wasn't feeling up to it.

"I have some occasional walking difficulties with Parkinson's the last couple of years," the 76-year-old told the magazine. "It's not major. I'm getting through it fine so far."

Lewis added that he didn't want to "spend five or six hours mingling with so many people," because "it's just asking for trouble."

The "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" and "Anything But Love" star revealed in April 2023 that he had been diagnosed with the degenerative brain disorder and would be retiring from stand-up comedy after 50 years, as well as countless self-deprecating jokes detailing his neuroses. However, the talk-show regular said he still planned to write and act.

The actor already appeared in the third episode of "Curb's" final season, notably bickering with David over his objection to Lewis making him the benefactor in his will. HBO also confirmed that Lewis will appear in three more episodes.

"We have this profound affection for one another and respect for our craft," Lewis told The Times ahead of the premiere. "And we've always been there for one another. Some of my idiosyncratic things in my behavior that he picks up on — and he has ever since we were adolescents — he really has remembered most of the juicy ones and has put them into the show."

"Because we're such old friends, I can say anything I want to him and vice versa," David said. "So there's a certain freedom that comes with that. ... Anything I say to him on the show, I would say to him in life. I think I treat him worse in life."

Upon word of his death, Lewis' friends and fans paid tribute to the iconic funnyman.

In a statement to the Associated Press, David described his co-star and longtime friend as a brother: "He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I'll never forgive him."

Jamie Lee Curtis, who co-starred in the ABC sitcom "Anything But Love" with Lewis from 1989 to 1992, shared two tributes on Instagram, remembering him as a "deep and freaking funny comedian."

"He also is the reason I am sober. He helped me. I am forever grateful for him for the act of grace alone," she wrote. "He found love with Joyce and that, of course, besides his sobriety, is what mattered most to him. I'm weeping as I write this."

His "Curb" co-star Cheryl Hines tweeted that Lewis "would take time to tell the people he loved what they meant to him."

"In between takes on Curb, he would tell me how special I was to him and how much he loved me. To be loved by Richard Lewis. A true gift. I love you Richard. You will be missed. #RichardLewis," Hines wrote. She also told "Entertainment Tonight" that when she was young, she had "the biggest crush" on Lewis.

"He was the funniest person on stage and the most handsome comedian. Then when I was cast on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' I got to work with him and it was a dream come true," she said, adding, "Yes, he was the comedian I fell in love with, but he was also one of the most loving people I know."

 

"RIP Richard Lewis. A brilliantly funny man who will missed by all. The world needed him now more than ever," tweeted "Curb" co-star Albert Brooks.

"Rest Richard Rest," co-star J.B. Smoove wrote on Instagram stories. "Thanks for encouraging me to shoot for the stars. @shahclectic and I will miss you dearly. #teamcurb"

"You are so loved," Smoove's wife, Shahidah Omar, added. "Thank you for being so wonderful, hilarious and kind."

"Richard was an original brilliant voice that cannot be replaced. I was lucky to call him a friend. He made me laugh and he was one of the most supportive and kindest people I've ever known," "Curb" co-star Susie Essman told "Entertainment Tonight."

Cary Elwes, the "Princess Bride" star who co-starred with Lewis in Mel Brooks' 1993 comedy "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," said that he and Lewis were "literally just making plans to get together."

"Besides your remarkable talent there was no one sweeter or more generous than you, my friend. I miss you already & forever. Rest in Power, Richard. Our sincere condolences to Joyce, his family & fans @TheRichardLewis," he tweeted, along with a photo from the "Robin Hood" set.

"Richard was my hero when I was a standup," filmmaker Paul Feig added. "I was lucky enough to get to know him and he was the most wonderful man. So supportive and kind and truly one of the funniest people on the planet. You will be missed, my friend."

"He was one-of-a-kind & always hilarious. Thank you for a lifetime of laughter," wrote "Star Wars" actor Mark Hamill.

"God bless, Richard Lewis peace and love to Joyce peace and love," tweeted Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

"Richard Lewis was part of a changing of the guard in stand-up history during the 1970s; his work exemplified and anticipated the deeply personal, raw, introspective and yes, neurotic, tone that has come to color so much contemporary comedy. His influence on the art form was profound, and we are proud to preserve his enduring contribution to comedy's heritage," Journey Gunderson, the executive director of the National Comedy Center, said in a statement to The Times.

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(Freelance writer Whitney Friedlander contributed to this report.)

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