Richard Lewis discusses getting his first big role, being canceled and how Mushy got the nickname Mushy
I could begin this story by telling you that Richard Lewis is one of the sharpest comedians to over walk on stage and pick up a microphone. I could list out his movies, television accomplishments, and then discuss how much we all love him playing Larry David's best friend on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
However, after playing this interview for my editor and some other people at the site, it was deemed appropriate that we would simply transcribe mostly everything that we discussed and break it up into three easy to digest parts. Not to be forgotten was the reason why myself and Richard Lewis were talking in the first place. Fox Home Entertainment is currently releasing his hilarious show Anything But Love, Vol. 1, in which Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis play two best friends who are meant to be together.
As I stated, the following is Part 1 of my laugh filled discussion with Richard Lewis. It all started with my phone ringing and him asking me about my nickname Evan "Mushy" Jacobs.
I'm gonna explain it. I'm gonna explain it...
Richard Lewis: Alright, well let me get upstairs because I'm gonna have to sit down for this. I'm sure you're coming up with a lie right now.
No, no, no... look, you lie to a lot of people, you don't lie to Richard Lewis.
Richard Lewis: No, you cannot get away with that email without an explanation, otherwise the whole interview will suck. Is it a sexual thing? Is it a drug reference? Is it mushrooms? It's gotta be, right? Mushrooms...?
No, no, no... it's actually a lot more boring than that.
Richard Lewis: Oh, then I don't care. Some lover calls you Mushy or something?
As a young jewish boy...
Richard Lewis: You don't have a mushroom head or anything. I'm sorry...
As young jewish boy growing up in Orange County, I was in the play Little Shop of Horrors and I played Mr. Mushnik.
Richard Lewis: Oh you're kidding me! Oh, that's cool.
Well, you've got to give it the yiddish inflection. One thing led to another and I had friends that would ask me, on demand, "Hey, perform Mr. Mushnik." And I'm sure you know what that's like.
Richard Lewis: It's horrible. So what do you do, you write for MovieWeb?
I write for MovieWeb and then in my spare time I make very low budget, independent movies.
Richard Lewis: Fantastic. That's great. Now you can interview me but you're right, that was a despicably boring story. I was hoping that you were in prison and they called you Mushy, they tried to rape you, nothing like that.
I gotta tell you, you are putting me at ease. You are exactly as I hoped you would be.
Richard Lewis: Well, I'm disgusted with your name and frankly I've been up since 4 in the morning and I've been living for this interview. Lets just really kick ass with it because I'll read it online, and if it's not I'm gonna come after you. Are we talking about Anything But Love or Curb Your Enthusiasm?
Both, I hope.
Richard Lewis: Talk about a mushroom cloud! My hair looks like a mushroom cloud. What were they thinking? Why didn't anybody tell me that my hair looked like a pumpernickel that was frozen in time?
Look, I would be envious to be your age and have that much hair.
Richard Lewis: Why anybody let me walk around, they probably just whispered, they were ashamed to say, "Cut that pumpernickel of you f&*kin head! You look like an idiot!" No one told me that. Nobody. My wife, I got married two years ago, she would never have allowed me to walk out of the house looking like that. Even now she pats my hair down which bothers the sh*t out of me! She means well. She's looking out for me.
I had hair 3 feet tall in Anything But Love. I still think it's a terrific show and I'm so proud that they finally... I've been lobbying to get this thing out to be quite frank. I can't believe that it took so long. You walk into any video store... a show is canceled at two o'clock and the first season, they only have one episode and they come out. This thing was very popular, it was on after Roseanne, we were tragically canceled by our own studio. We were picked up for another 26 episodes in the fifth season by ABC, and for some reason someone at the studio said, "Nah." (Laughs) It was that quick.
Not to mention we were very close to syndication and I probably wouldn't be talking to you now. I'd be in a Villa in Rome.
Hanging out with LD!
Richard Lewis: By the way the only reason I'm talking without stopping is because I'm afraid you're having a nervous breakdown. Is that what's going on?
No, no, no... I just wanted to hear you and if you want me to ask questions that's great.
Richard Lewis: I'm not that thrilled about your questions so far to be honest. The Mushy explanation scared me enough to think that I should ask my own questions and answer them, and then just hang up and run.
What attracted you to the role of Marty Gold
Richard Lewis: Getting it! I auditioned for it, I was lucky not to be on the road. I got a call from an agent and by the way, this is indicative of show business, unless you're a huge star and they just offer you roles, you audition. Ninety-Nine percent of the time you come home a loser, it's a very tough business. Not to mention that only five percent of the people make a living in show business. So I'm a comedian but I'm an actor as well, but back then I didn't have that much acting experience. I was really high off of the Letterman show which probably got me into the room. I was ready for this role, I was really prepared, and Jamie Lee she slipped me a note that said, "You're my Marty."
I went, "Oh sh*t! It's over." That's always like the kiss of death. It turned out I was almost right. We really hit it off and she was a fan of mine of mine as well, so I had that going for me, but we just hit it off. I had to read for the Network and John Ritter, bless his soul, this guy didn't have to do this... I went up there and auditioned and I was up there for hours. John Ritter, he went above and beyond, historically, even what your friends would do in this business. He came over to me and he said, "I don't know what's with these people... I don't know what's going on but I'm not leaving until you are Marty Gold."
He just cared about the project and he was the producer so he said, "You're the guy." And I got it. I don't know if I would have lasted had it not been for John Ritter going in there and saying, "What's wrong with you people?" The rest was history. The show got great reviews. The only downside was how we were canceled. No one told us. I gotta say the new people at Fox were cool enough to let us discuss what really happened in the chapters and how horrified we were. That's pretty cool, man, for 20th to let us say that. They could have edited anything out that they wanted but they didn't.
It was one of the biggest breaks of my life. I'll always remember sitting up at my house watching Roseanne, we were on after, and then there was a commercial, "Up next, Richard Lewis, Jamie Lee Curtis..." and there was my face. I said, "Gosh, 35 million people just saw that." Then it was again. Then it was on in the morning. Then I understood, I finally got payback for wanting to stay in the business no matter how poor I was in the beginning. Until I got a taste of being presold and that's really what that was.
CLICK HERE to read Pt. 2 of our Interview with Richard Lewis!
CLICK HERE to read Pt. 3 of our Interview with Richard Lewis!
Anything But Love, Vol. 1 is currently on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment.