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Jerry Lewis rose to fame as Dean Martin's comedic partner. The two performed on stage before their film career began in 1949.
Jerry Lewis - Full Episode (90:36)
Don Knotts - Early Life (2:56)
Watch a short video about Jerry Lewis and find out how this multitalented entertainer catapulted to stardom.
A two-hour biography of Jerry Lewis.
Watch a short video about Dean Martin and learn how this crooner was part of one of the most popular duos and "packs" in show business history.
Actor and comedian Don Knotts faced many difficulties as a child growing up in West Virginia to ultimately become one of America's most beloved TV stars.
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Born on March 16, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, Jerry Lewis, then known as Jerome Levitch, grew up performing in a vaudeville family. He met singer Dean Martin in 1944. They developed a comedy act and performed in nightclubs like the Copacabana. With their popular comedy routine, the duo went from making $250 a week to $5,
"I get paid for what most kids get punished for."
000. Lewis then made a successful transition into film with the 1949 film My Friend Irma that would lead to a string of roles in popular films and TV appearances.
Comedian, actor and director Jerry Lewis was born as Joseph Levitch on March 6, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey. His father, Daniel Levitch, who went by the stage name Danny Lewis, was an actor, master of ceremonies and all-around performer. His mother, Rae Lewis, played piano for the New York City radio station WOR and was her husband's musical director. Growing up in a show business family, Lewis began following in his parents' footsteps as a performer from a very young age. He made his debut at the age of 5, singing "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" at New York's "Borscht Belt" nightclubs in the Catskill Mountains.
A decade later, at the age of 15, Jerry Lewis dropped out of high school to pursue a full-time career as a performer. He devised a comedy routine known as the "Record Act" in which he mimed and mouthed the lyrics to operatic and popular songs while a phonograph played the songs offstage. He took his act to the offices of several booking agents before finally landing a gig at a burlesque house in Buffalo. His debut performance fell flat, though, and unable to book any shows at more prestigious venues, Lewis worked as a theater usher and soda jerk to make ends meet.
He grew depressed and was on the verge of giving up on his dream of following his parents into show business when a friend of his father's, the comedian Max Coleman, convinced him to give comedy another shot and helped him land a performance at Brown's Hotel in Loch Sheldrake, New York. This time his comedy routine received thunderous applause, and among the enthused audience members was another comedian, Irving Kaye, who helped the young Lewis book more Borscht Belt appearances.
In 1945, a 19-year-old Lewis met a young crooner named Dean Martin while performing at the Glass Hat Club in New York City. A year later, when Lewis was performing at the 500 Club in Atlantic City and another performer suddenly quit, Lewis suggested that the club book Dean Martin as a replacement. On July 25, 1946, Martin joined Lewis as a performer at the 500 Club, and one of the greatest partnerships in the history of American show business was born.
Their act began with Martin singing a song only to be interrupted by Lewis, with the routine soon devolving into a hilarious improvised sequence that included ad-libbed insults, food fights, and frequent banter with the audience. Billed as Martin and Lewis, the duo became such an instantaneous success that in a matter of months they went from earning $250 a week to earning $5,000.
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Originally called Toast of the Town, The Ed Sullivan Show ran from 1948-1971 on CBS and was an American staple in the 50s and 60s. The American variety show featured the Who's Who of celebritydom over the decades, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, The Jackson 5, and The Doors.
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