The culture of comedy suffered great losses over the weekend with the deaths of legendary civil rights activist/comedian Dick Gregory and actor/singer/comedian Jerry Lewis. Dick Gregory was 84 and Jerry Lewis was 91 years old respectively. Both men were influential to the culture of comedy and their work and legacies will live on forever.
Dick Gregory paved the way for other African-American entertainers because he performed comedy through a time where racism and prejudice was the norm. He was primarily known for his sets that attacked racial intolerance head on and provided comedic relief while serving as an activist to right the wrongs and biases people of colored faced every day. Segregation was legal for a large phase of his career and he spent most of that time performing for segregated audiences and is credited as the first black comedian to cross into mainstream, white audiences. The political activist and father of 11 was hospitalized last week in Washington D.C. where he ultimately succumbed to heart failure.
Jerry Lewis was an actor, singer, comedian, screenwriter, and humanitarian. One of his most memorable films was “The Nutty Professor” later remade with Eddie Murphy as the lead character. He was part of the comedy duo Martin and Lewis with Dean Martin. He had a silly animated style of comedy and was a genius with his improv work with Dean Martin. He was an accomplished entertainer on stage, radio, in film, and television. He was a major supporter and activist in the fight to raise money and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and served as the MDA national spokesman. Lewis leaves to mourn his wife and seven children.