Richard Lewis, Comedian and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Star, Dies at 76

Tributes have come from friends and co-stars Larry David and Jamie Lee Curtis

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Feb 28, 2024

Richard Lewis — the American actor, writer, standup comedian and recurring star of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm — has died. Lewis's publicist, Jeff Abraham, confirmed to multiple outlets that the artist passed away last night (February 27) at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack. He was 76.

“His wife, Joyce Lapinsky, thanks everyone for all the love, friendship and support and asks for privacy at this time,” Abraham said [via Deadline].

Lewis had been living with Parkinson's disease, at once revealing his diagnosis and retiring from performing standup comedy in April 2023. At that time, Lewis also reminded followers of how his health was affected by having "four surgeries back to back to back to back," which limited his involvement with season 11 of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Born in Brooklyn in 1947, Lewis began performing standup in the early '70s while working as an advertising copywriter. After being discovered by comedian David Brenner while performing in Greenwich Village, Lewis would appear on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson by the midpoint of the decade, and would be recognized in a class of comics including Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Andy Kaufman.

Lewis's standup comedy included self-deprecation and neuroticism, and he would often discuss his own battles with anxiety, depression and addiction in his material. In 1979, he would make his screen acting debut in made-for-TV movie Diary of Young Comic, playing Billy Gondolstein, a young Jewish comedian from New York City who changes his surname to "Gondola" in an effort to make it big in the Los Angeles comedy scene. Aired on NBC during SNL's timeslot, the film was executive produced by Lorne Michaels.

In the '80s and '90s, Lewis would produce comedy specials like I'm in Pain, I'm Exhausted, I'm Doomed and Richard Lewis: The Magical Misery Tour, and appeared on talk shows, including Late Night, the Late Show with David Letterman and The Howard Stern Show. As an actor, he co-starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in sitcom Anything but Love from 1988 to 1992, played Prince John in 1993's Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and held roles in films including Drunks, Leaving Las Vegas and Hugo Pool.

Lewis would stop performing standup in the early '90s as his alcoholism worsened entering the decade, telling The Santa Maria Times in 1995 how John Candy's death in 1994 led him to reflect on his life and career. The two co-starred together in 1994's Wagons East, Candy's final film. Lewis would publish his memoir, titled The Other Great Depression: How I'm Overcoming, on a Daily Basis, at Least a Million Addictions and Dysfunctions and Finding a Spiritual (Sometimes) Life, in 2000, reissuing the tome in 2008 with an afterword examining his continued struggles with addiction. That book was followed by 2015's Reflections from Hell: Richard Lewis' Guide on How Not to Live.

Lewis's recurring role on the hit HBO sitcom, currently in its twelfth and final season, saw him play a semi-autobiographical version of himself alongside series star and creator Larry David

Speaking with The Washington Post in 2022, Lewis shared how, after being born in the same Brooklyn hospital, he and David first met as 12-year-olds attending summer camp in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY. Of David, he recalled, "We hated each other. He was an annoying, lanky, obnoxious basketball player." They would meet again in their early 20s performing standup in New York, and became friends.

In a statement published by HBO [via Variety], David shared, "Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me. He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I'll never forgive him."

On Instagram, Curtis shared in a respective statement, "Richard's last text to me, was hoping that I could convince ABC/Disney to put out another boxed set of episodes of [Anything But Love]. He also is the reason I am sober. He helped me. I am forever grateful for him for that act of grace alone. He found love with Joyce and that, of course, besides his sobriety, is what mattered most to him. I'm weeping as I write this. Strange way of saying thank you to a sweet and funny man. Rest in laughter, Richard. My Marty, I love you, Hannah!"

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