Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jerry Lewis and the evolution of the "typewriter" bit

Jerry Lewis, master of pantomime typing.

It's a simple formula, folks.
Well, it looks like 85-year-old comedy legend Jerry Lewis is in the news again, unceremoniously getting the boot from the MDA Telethon after half a century. I thought it was a good a time as any to revisit what is perhaps Mr. Lewis' most famous bit of all time, the classic wordless "typewriter" routine. You youngsters out there may not even know what a typewriter even is, let alone what it sounded like or how it operated. Let the Clown Prince of Comedy be your instructor, then, in the ways of obsolete technology. As we shall soon see, Mr. Lewis performed this routine many, many times over the years on television and in film. In all its incarnations, it is set to a piece of instrumental music called "The Typewriter" by Leroy Anderson, composer of "Sleigh Ride," "The Syncopated Clock," "Plink Plank Plunk," and many others.

1. Here he is on the Colgate Comedy Hour in the 1950s, when he and Dean Martin were like rock stars. I mean, seriously, you have no idea how huge they were back then.

2. So now it's 1963. Jerry has gone solo by this point, but he's still doing the same bit in the movie Who's Minding the Store?, only minus the wacky hair and the prop typewriter. I think it's actually funnier this way.

3. Basically the same as Clip #2, only it's a slightly older Jerry doing this bit in Paris, France -- the land where they love him best!

4. Later still... and in Germany in this time. You can kind of see the years of bitterness and resentment building up in Jerry's face.

Well, this particular video seems to have disappeared. In its place, here is a clip of Jerry pretending to learn to speak German. Enjoy.

5. Relegated to the sidelines, Jerry barely conceals his discomfort at watching some young punk imitate him... on his own telethon, yet!

BONUS CLIP: Yakko is clearly biting Jerry's style