The Nutty Professor lectured at Harvard for the first time last night. And it sure was nutty.
Jerry Lewis, the world-famous comedian and star of such film classics as "Cinderfella" (1960) and "The Nutty Professor" (1963), spoke last night in the Agassiz Theatre to about 90 undergraduates and several staff members.
Lewis touched on a multitude of subjects, discussing everything from the current state of Hollywood and how to make it big in the movies to his four-year-old daughter and why most comedians are male. Lewis made almost all the audience members laugh; he also shocked some.
"It's nice to see you have such good taste," Lewis said in response to the loud applause that greeted him as he walked on stage.
Lewis' famed ego was in evidence throughout the evening.
When his lawyers were unable to sign Billy Wilder to direct his screenplay for "The Bell Boy," Lewis said, "I took the next best thing and I was terrific."
Responding to questions about Hollywood's astronomical budgets and extremely high salaries, Lewis said he did not want to "be negative."
Instead, he attributed the perceived excess to "the spiraling economy."
Lewis employed a different standard when it came to his own weekly pay, which he said is "more than 16,000 people make in a year."
"What should I do?" he asked. "Give it back? I work very hard. I hope it happens to you someday. Then you'll understand.
The evening's most tense moment came when Lewis responded to a woman who asked why Lewis thought most of the great physical comedians were men.
Claiming he was old-fashioned, he said, "First of all, women are machines that make babies.... People do not want to see woman not being feminine. Carol [Burnett] never became less of a lady. Lucy Ball did. She lost the femininity."
Some audience members shifted uncomfortably after his response and the woman who had posed the question left, saying she had to go rehearse for a Woody Allen play.
But Lewis, always the entertainer, kept the audience laughing most of the evening.
His biggest hit of the evening was his response to a question about the lack of funding for the arts. He told the story of a couple in a hospital looking at the miracle of their new-born.
"Look at the fingers and the toes and the ears and the eyes," he said. "Let's call him Newt."
Lewis is currently in Boston on the tour of the musical "Damn Yankees," in which he plays Satan
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