In this installment Mr. Lewis discusses working with television writers and calls Mushy a cheap bastard
At about this point in Part 2 of my interview with Richard Lewis to discuss the DVD release of Anything But Love, Vol. 1, I realized that the normal structure of the interview process wasn't going to happen. I wouldn't simply ask my subject (in this case Mr. Lewis) about his illustrious career, and then wait for him to respond in kind. This was going to be a rare two way dialogue in which I was as much a part of the conversation as he was.
Okay, maybe not as much a part of the conversation but I certainly think I held my own with one of the funniest performers working today. At least, I tried to anyway.
There's a history of shows like Gilligan's Island, The Jeffersons that got canceled...
Richard Lewis: They weren't canceled by their own studio where they?
I think they were... you hear a lot of the stars on those shows say how they were getting great ratings then they left for hiatus and it was over.
Richard Lewis: But hold on a second, usually when you say we left... a network puts you on hiatus. That's usually a harbinger for only bad things.
Richard Lewis: We're gonna try out a new show in your time slot. Usually, those shows rarely make it when they come back... the momentum's lost. When they take it off for a few months that's the networks call. The studio wouldn't want that. Generally speaking, a studio puts you on hiatus not your own network. In our case the network called up and said we want to shoot 26 more episodes. The studio said, "Forget it, we don't want to do it." That's unusual and I don't really think that happens. At least in a situation where we had an offer from the network to continue.
The heartbreaking thing was that Jamie Lee and I were not told. More than anything, driving to the soundstage and seeing it being broken down for a pilot! Particularly Jamie Lee, it was her show. It was horrifying. Horrifying in a show business world sense, not horrifying in a global sense, obviously. It was handled so poorly but that's why I'm really, sort of, proud of Fox for enabling us... to tell the truth. They're not acting like the current administration. The White House. I had to get that in didn't I?
On a show like this...
Richard Lewis: I haven't asked one question in the last five minutes and you know it.
On a show like this... hey, you can ask me anything that you like.
Richard Lewis: I already know everything that I need to know about you. You're a filmmaker and a freelance writer. And you're Jewish and you played Mushnik.
Did you work with the writers a lot on the show to make the comedy more fluid with your comedic style?
Richard Lewis: As any comedian whose part of the cast and is surrounded by 10 or 12 producer/writers, you're not gonna get much in, and they also don't like... historically, even though I am a writer... and I was a consultant; it was only in name only mostly. There were really good writers on the show and they really knew my performance and my style and the kind of act I did. I was able to fax them things from time to time. Every night I would fax them scores of jokes and ideas, and sometimes they would find their way into the script, but in general there was enough comedy writers on there that they knew my head and wrote for me, particularly the last two years.
I was a consultant, you see that on the show, but most of that's bullsh*t and everyone knows it. They sort of throw a bone to one of the stars of the show. It's hard. There were two visions on this show. There was the first year and then they changed hands and turned it over to another show runner who had another vision. There were a lot of writers on the show. Now Curb Your Enthusiasm for example of course there's no script. There's a situation where Larry David is like a Norman Lear. He runs the show. Period. There's other people around him, idea people, just like with Seinfeld. They had a tremendous writing staff but ultimately everything was funneled through Larry David's brain.
I threw in ideas but it was plenty just starring with Mrs. Curtis. It was one of the biggest breaks of my career. If not the biggest break.
We're huge fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm...
Richard Lewis: You say we, you don't have a split personality?
No, no, when I say that I'm talking about the site, our friends, my parents, we are devoted to that show!
Richard Lewis: Alright I'll send you a Chanukah present you bastard.
Just send me a menorah on a dimmer and I'll be fine.
Richard Lewis: (Laughs) I'm very flattered that you know that. Anyone who can spout out, "Just give me a menorah on a dimmer...," I'm gonna have to buy you something. You're not supposed to give any presents to journalists but I don't give a sh*t! I'm gonna send you a Cadillac tonight. You want an Escalade?
Hey, I'd be happy with a signed season of Curb.
Richard Lewis: Nah, too expensive. I was just gonna send you a little toy. You're such a cheap bastard, you can get anything you want with that site! They'll send them to you. Why are you sucking everything out of my house? It took me long enough to get the damn things from HBO! Now you want me to send them to you? Everything they told me about you is right, you are self centered.
Is your friendship with Larry David similar to how it is in real life?
Richard Lewis: With Larry? Absolutely. It's a little heightened, he's pretty close. He close in how he feels. He's almost dead on. I love Larry. He's such a principled, ethical guy. It's amazing how people misinterpret some of the stuff on that show. All he's basically saying is, "You believe in what you believe in. Let me believe in what I believe in and let me alone." I feel the same way about life, basically. Of course he puts himself in these excruciatingly funny situations. Where he has to be confronted by so many a*%holes.
Look how he died at the end of the last year. (Laughs) They're talking about his money and $5,000, and I'm on the beach with a beautiful woman. He gave me a kidney, it was unbelievable. I didn't know if that was gonna be the end or not but... it obviously wasn't because this season is darker and cooler than I think any of them. I can only speak for the episodes I've been in but I know enough about the arc just to tell you, of course I can't say any more than that or my car will blow up. Can a Jew blow up another Jew's car like that? In Hollywood?
He's just a heroic figure to me on television and for a lot of people. The only difference is that I've known him since I was 12 and he's just LD to me. It's trippy. That's the trippy part of being in this business literally for 38 years. I discussed this with my shrink... I don't go to my shrink much anymore, when they start sleeping through your sessions it's time to f*&kin get out.
CLICK HERE to read Pt. 1 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.
Dont't forget to also check out: Anything But Love