Comedy legends Dick Gregory, left, and Jerry Lewis, right, both passed away this weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Comedy world mourns Jerry Lewis, Dick Gregory

Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced comedian who burst onto the post-World War II show-business scene with partner Dean Martin to form the hottest comedy team of their era before launching his own highly successful solo career a decade later, died on Sunday. He was 91.

Lewis died of natural causes in Las Vegas with his family by his side, his publicist Candi Cazau told the Associated Press.

Known nearly as much for his philanthropic work as for his comedy the last few decades of his life, Lewis was fixture for 44 years as host of the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon.

In a show-business career that spanned more than 70 years, Lewis at various times was said to be the highest-paid nightclub comic, television entertainer and film director in the world.

And with Martin for 10 of those years, he was half of what has been called the most successful comedy duo in history.

The two were known as a supercharged mix of jokes, routines, singing, dancing and, most notably, ad-libbing.

“I have been in the business 55 years, and I have never to this day seen an act get more laughs than Martin and Lewis,” comedian Alan King once recalled . “They didn’t get laughs — it was pandemonium.”

Dick Gregory, the first black stand-up comic to break the color barrier in major nightclubs in the early 1960s, a decade in which he satirized segregation and race relations in his act and launched his lifetime commitment to civil rights and other social justice issues, died on Saturday. He was 84.

“It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, D.C.,” his son Christian Gregory wrote.

In a life that began in poverty in St. Louis during the Depression, the former Southern Illinois University track star became known as an author, lecturer, nutrition guru and self-described agitator who marched, ran and fasted to call attention to issues ranging from police brutality to world famine.

His activism was spurred with an invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in 1962.

He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ‘60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala., after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Greg opened the door,” comedian and future TV star Redd Foxx told The New York Times in 1961. “Somebody had to be first. There’s room for all of us.”

Actress Hayden Panettiere is 28 … Singer Kelis is 38 … Actress Kim Cattrall is 61 … Singer Kenny Rogers is 79 … Actor-filmmaker-writer Melvin Van Peebles is 85.
— Wire report

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