By Ken StoneHoward Stern called the 8-minute interview “best ever.” Former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan loved the “integrity of his balkiness.” Social media went manic.
The videotaped chat with Jerry Lewis — labeled the “crabbiest” in history — led to instant fame for Andy B. Lewis, the former history professor who sat down with the comedy legend in his Las Vegas home.
Andy, who has been with The Hollywood Reporter since November 2011, was roasted for his questions, even though Jerry appeared angry before the interview began.
“I totally understand people who are critical” said Andy, no relation to Jerry. “It takes two to make a terrible interview, and I certainly contributed.”
But Jerry’s annoyance at the photoshoot beforehand had put him in an uncooperative mood that made the job difficult, Andy told MyNewsLa.com.
“I did my due diligence on Jerry’s career and life and his accomplishments,” said Andy, who has a doctorate in American history from the University of Virginia and also taught at Wesleyan University and the University of Richmond.
“But this wasn’t supposed to be a career retrospective but part of a package about people still being creative in their 90s and the conversation was mostly intended to be about that (hence the question about whether he’s ever considered retirement).”
Andy has been answering a lot of questions since the video went viral Monday.
“It’s gone all around the world,” Lee told Lewis. “People love it.”
So did colleagues at The Hollywood Reporter. Andy Lewis told Lee that as the video circulated around he office on Wilshire Boulevard, people were laughing.
“In my own failure, there was some comedy,” said Andy, a former “Top Cop” fashion critic for Us Magazine.
Lewis says the chat — intended to last only 15 minutes — was taped the Monday before Thanksgiving. He volunteered for the assignment “because Jerry is a legend and I thought it would be fun (famous last words),” he said via email. “I also did Norman Lear (that went fine).”
Any regrets on how things went?
“Sure, hindsight is 20/20,” said the native of Concord, Massachusetts. “I wish I had stopped the cameras and asked if there was anything we could do to get things on track, but at the time I was flustered by his anger and just hoping if I kept plugging away things might improve.”
Andy says he’s had no contact with Jerry since the visit.
“I don’t think Jerry needs to apologize to me,” Andy Lewis said.
Talk-show host Lee hailed the interview as “awkward British comedy at its best.” Others called it a “trainwreck” and “cringing nightmare.”
Historian Lewis, author of several books, offered perspective: “Given all the things going on in the world, if people are laughing at this, I think that’s great. I’m totally fine with that.”
Jerry Lewis was chosen for an interview as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s series on entertainment legends in their 90s who continue to work. Jerry Lewis turned 90 in March.
How old is Andy B. Lewis?
He declined to give his age.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: