If you like comedy, you’ll know Richard Lewis. The actor and funnyman has appeared in a slew of hits since breaking onto the scene in the 1970s, including the hugely popular “Anything But Love” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Now aged 73, his years of grafting have earned him a net worth that Celebrity Net Worth estimates to be in the region of $7 million. How did he do it? Prepare to find out.
The Early Days
Lewis was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 29, 1947. As a kid, he was regularly kicked out of class for acting the clown. By the time he graduated from Ohio State University, he knew his future lay on the stage. For most of the 70s, Lewis spent his days working as a copywriter and his nights working the crowd at stand-up venues around New York. By the 1980s, he was a well-known face on the comedy circuit. But apart from a few appearances on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and a couple of minor roles in movies like “Diary of a Young Comic”, he’d yet to make his mark on the wider audience. His breakthrough came in 1982 when he was offered a slot on “The David Letterman Show”. From there, the only way was up. A string of his own TV specials followed, as did more TV work in the likes of “Riptide” (1987), “Harry” (1987), “CBS Summer Playhouse” (1987), and “Tattingers” (1987). At around about the same time, Lewis was also starting to make strides on the big screen, appearing in “The Wrong Guys” (1988) and “That’s Adequate” (1989).
The Move to the Mainstream
By 1989, Lewis was considered a ‘name’ – a name big enough to deserve a leading man role in “Anything But Love”, the ABC sitcom co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis. The show ran for four seasons in total. By the time it drew to a close in 1992, Lewis had become well enough established to take his pick of roles. Which is precisely what he did. Over the next decade, he was a regular face on the likes of “Daddy Dearest” (1993), “TriBeCa” (1993), “The Larry Sanders Show” (1993), “Tales from the Crypt” (1994), “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” (1995–2008), “A.J.’s Time Travelers” (1995), “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (1995 -2016), “Hiller and Diller” (1997-98), “Rude Awakening” (1998), and “V.I.P.” (1999). While some comedians struggle to transfer their talents to the screen, Lewis clearly had no such problem.
In 1999, Lewis appeared as himself in a little TV special called “Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Although it was initially conceived as a one-off project, the enthusiastic reception with which it was greeted prompted David and HBO to expand the premise into a full series. 20 years on, and Lewis is still regularly popping up in the show as one of its longest-serving guest stars.
The last two decades have proved a busy (and profitable) time for the veteran comedian. Along with “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, he’s found success with “7th Heaven” (2002-2004), “Alias” (2003), “Two and a Half Men” (2004), “Everybody Hates Chris” (2006), “The Cleaner” (2009), “Til Death” (2010), “Blunt Talk” (2015), and “Code Black” (2016). In between projects, he’s managed to fit in some voice-over work (“The Simpsons” (2006), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2008), “Pound Puppies” (2011), and “BoJack Horseman” (2018)) along with several films, including “Sledge: The Untold Story” (2005), “Vamps” (2012), “She’s Funny That Way” (2014), and “Sandy Wexler” (2018).
While most people start winding down once they get past 60, Lewis clearly doesn’t believe in taking it easy at the country club. Whether it’s because he hates golf or just really likes his job, his tireless approach to work has meant he’s as busy in his 70s and he was in his 30s. Which may just help explain how he’s holding on to that $7 million fortune.
The Serious Stuff
To say Lewis is best known as a comic actor would be an understatement. But it’s not true to say he’s never wrapped his acting chops around some more dramatic roles. In 1995, he gave his funny bone the day off when he played Peter in the romantic drama, “Leaving Las Vegas”. Two years later, he was playing the serious thespian again in “Hugo Pool” and “The Maze”. But apparently, there’s only so long a man who came 45 in Comedy Central’s ‘100 Greatest Standups of All Time’ can hold a serious face. Apart from a few brief appearances in the likes of “Presidio Med”, “7th Heaven”, and “Alias”, it’s been comedy all the way since the early nineties.
The Prince of Pain
Comedians might be two a penny, but good ones are an altogether rarer thing. And Richard Lewis is A Good Comedian. While most of us know him more for his TV shows than his stage appearances, he’s never abandoned stand-up. And why would he? For over 50 years, he’s been making comedy pay thanks to his inimitable style and soul-bearing routines. As the Observer writes, “Lewis is part of a modern tradition of comedy neurosis whose antecedents include Woody Allen and Shelley Berman”… good company to be in, at least if we’re talking longevity in a business that tends to chew people up and spit them out before they’re 40.
“We’re both worrywarts—we both live on the dark side of life,” Berman has said of the similarities in the pair’s performance style. “But he’s very nervy. He cuts himself wide open when he works. You can see the guy bleed”. But pain apparently pays. Lewis’s nervy, edgy stage presence is what put him on the map. Without – quite literally – tearing his hair out, would The Prince of Pain (as he’s nicknamed) still be packing out venues and getting calls from producers? Maybe, but we wouldn’t want him to stop, regardless.
Over the past 5 decades, Richard Lewis has built a steady career in a field that’s usually anything but. It takes some serious effort and not a small amount of skill to make stand-up comedy pay, but that’s exactly what Lewis has managed to do. It doesn’t exactly hurt matters that’s he become one of the most prolific TV comedy actors of the past 40 years either.