American comedian, actor and filmmaker Jerry Lewis was not always as appreciated in the United States as he was in France. His brand of slapstick humor, penchant for physical comedy and outspoken views that were interpreted, especially later in life, as racist or out-of-touch, meant he sometimes fell out of favor with American media and audiences. However, across the ocean, the French have loved and respected Lewis’ “genius” since his start in the 1950s. His death this week has resulted in an outpouring of sadness from French officials, filmmakers and press.
France’s love of Lewis was often the source of English-language jokes and a deep misunderstanding about one another’s taste in humor. The New York Times explores this rift, concluding that « while some Americans felt embarrassed by this contortionist comic… the French saw in Mr. Lewis a revolutionary, a man who dared, an experimentalist and a pioneer ». Director Jean-Luc Godard of the French New Wave even once declared him « the only one in Hollywood able to transcend categories and norms ».
Read more at The New York Times.