Richard Lewis remembered as tireless sobriety advocate for those seeking to escape alcoholism

Theresa Braine, New York Daily News on

Published in Entertainment News

Tributes that poured in for comedian Richard Lewis, who died late Tuesday at the age of 76, highlighted his comedic presence and stalwart friendship, but he played another major role in others’ lives as well — helping people get sober.

Lewis had been sober since the mid-1990s after ending up in the emergency room, feeling near death. He went on to become an advocate for others treading the same path, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

“He helped me. I am forever grateful for him for that act of grace alone,” Curtis said in a series of Instagram posts paying tribute to her co-star in the sitcom “Anything But Love,” which aired on ABC from 1989-1992.

“Richard Lewis helped people laugh and he helped people heal through his tireless, indefatigable belief in sobriety,” Curtis wrote. “The laughs may stop but the healing never does. It’s the power of recovery and fellowship and solidarity, and it’s available everywhere all at once. A phone call away. Rest in the knowledge that you helped people, Richard. First of all, me.”

Curtis said his sobriety was one of the two most important things in Lewis’s life, along with his wife of nearly 20 years, Joyce Lapinsky.


Meanwhile, Andy Lassner, a producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” recalled incessant daily phone calls from Lewis after meeting at a 12-step program during a time in Lassner’s life that was “ravaged” by addiction. After ignoring Lewis’ calls during a period of relapse, Lassner said Lewis eventually showed up to his hotel.

“I remember was a knock on the door, and there stood Richard,” Lassner wrote. “He told me to get my stuff. I did. He then took me to his house.”

Lassner stayed there a day or two, and then Lewis got him enrolled in rehab. This time it stuck.

“He was one of the many angels in my life who saved me,” Lassner wrote. “He was the menschiest of mensches.”

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