For years, Labor Day meant nothing to me except that it was the endless weekend that the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon was on. As a kid I stayed up later watching Jerry than I ever managed to do with Johnny Carson. It wasn’t the acts per se that made the telethon so important to be seen in full. It was Jerry’s disintegration over the hours he spent awake that I loved to witness–he went from Buddy Love/Jerry at the beginning, to rude and insulting Jerry (often mocking the accents of the nervous guests from various charities who were delivering checks on TV, no doubt for the first time), to tired and haggard Jerry, to manic-pill-popping Jerry, finally ending with human wreckage Jerry who closed by gasping ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. I cheered along with the tote board at each new grand total and ignored my mother’s comments about what evil men Jerry and Frank Sinatra actually were.
But all good things end and the telethon actually ended years before Jerry’s inglorious exit. By the early 90s I could no longer stomach Jerry’s unfunny shtick and the C minus guests that he desperately booked. One will never get a clear answer on precisely why the MDA told him to pack up his office and get out of town but it must have been something Jerry said. By then the rude and cruel Jerry was predominant and they were no doubt happy to be rid of him. But why dwell on such matters? This is Labor Day weekend and I’m going to dose out on Telethon videos all weekend. Join me. Stay up with Jerry and watch the stars etc. etc.