Richard Lewis, Legendary Standup and `Curb' Actor, Dies at 76

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Richard Lewis, the standup comedy stalwart of the 1970s and '80s who gained wider fame playing a version of himself on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," has died at age 76, his publicist said Wednesday.

Lewis died peacefully at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack, according to publicist Jeff Abraham.

"His wife, Joyce Lapinsky, thanks everyone for all the love, friendship and support and asks for privacy at this time," Abraham said in a statement.

In April of last year, Lewis revealed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"I just wanted to let you know that's where it's been at," Richard told his fans on social media at the time. "I'm just focusing on writing and acting. I have Parkinson's disease but I'm under a doctor's care and everything is cool. I love my wife, I love my little puppy dog and I love all my friends and my fans."

Lewis most recently appeared in Season 12 of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" opposite Larry David, after announcing in 2021 that he would not appear in Season 11 of the show in order to recover from three surgeries.

"Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he's been like a brother to me," David said in a statement. "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."

"Curb" co-star Cheryl Hines wrote on social media, "He 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."

The comedian was known for his distinctive style on stage, wearing all black and pacing nervously, waving his arms with exasperation. He was named by both GQ magazine and the Comedy Central cable channel as one of the best and most influential comics of the last century.

As an actor, Lewis appeared as Prince John in the Mel Brooks film "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," which was released in 1993.

That film's star, Cary Elwes, posted a behind-the-scenes video from the movie online Wednesday, with the caption, "Our hearts are broken at the sad news of the passing of the magnificent Richard Lewis. We will miss you and love you always." Co-star Amy Yasbeck posted a photo of herself with Lewis from the film's set, saying, "You will always be my King."

Lewis played the psychologist son of a used car dealer on the 1993 Fox sitcom "Daddy Dearest" co-starring Don Rickles, and took on the role of a rabbi on The WB's "7th Heaven" for two seasons, starting in 2002.

Born on June 29, 1947, in Brooklyn, New York, Lewis was raised in Englewood, New Jersey. He met and befriended David at a summer camp when he was 12.

"I disliked him intensely. He was cocky, he was arrogant," Lewis told The Spectator magazine in 2023. "When we played baseball, I tried to hit him with the ball: We were arch rivals. I couldn't wait for the camp to be over just to get away from Larry. I'm sure he felt the same way."

Lewis made his television debut at age 17 on the hit CBS show "Candid Camera."

He went on to study marketing and communications at Ohio State University and graduated in 1969. Two years later, he started performing standup comedy, which was mainly focused on his own neuroses, misery and therapy.

In 1974, he appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," which gave his career a major boost.

That same year, Lewis appeared with Sonny and Cher on their popular variety program.

In 1977, Lewis wrote and starred in the short feature "Diary of a Young Comic," in which he played a novice standup who attempts to find his own comic voice.

Lewis performed in three standup specials: "I'm in Pain" (Showtime, 1985), "I'm Exhausted" (HBO, 1988) and "I'm Doomed" (HBO, 1990).

The comedian also performed at Carnegie Hall in 1989.

That same year, Lewis landed his first lead role on the ABC sitcom "Anything But Love," co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis. They played coworkers at a Chicago magazine with a mutual romantic attraction, who struggle to keep their relationship strictly professional. The show ran for four seasons.

"Richard's last text to me was hoping that I could convince ABC/Disney to put out another boxed set of episodes of the show," Curtis wrote on social media Wednesday. "He also is the reason I am sober. He helped me. I am forever grateful for him for that act of grace alone. 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. Strange way of saying thank you to a sweet and funny man. Rest in laughter, Richard."

In 1995, Lewis earned praise for a straight dramatic role in the independent feature "Drunks," about an alcoholic struggling to maintain his sobriety.

That same year, he contributed another dramatic turn with a small role in the movie "Leaving Las Vegas," and he filmed an HBO comedy special, "Magical Mystery Tour," which aired in 1996.

Throughout his career, the comedian was candid about his battle with drug and alcohol addiction, referencing his recovery and struggles with depression and anxiety in his comedy. Lewis, formerly a user of cocaine and crystal meth, said his decision to get sober was partly inspired by John Candy's 1994 death.

In 2000, Lewis published "The OTHER Great Depression," an autobiography about his career and struggles with drugs and alcohol.

That same year, he first appeared with David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He shared a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination in 2006 with the show's regular cast.

Lewis is survived by his wife, Joyce.

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