Two Kings of Hearts

Two of the biggest supporters of charity. One the greatest entertainer of the century, the other a comedic genius. Two different roads to fame. Many things in common.

Elvis Didn't Have One Particular Favorite Comic--He Liked several. But high on the King of Rock and Roll's list along with Milton Berle and Lucille Ball, was the in-comparable, King of Comedy, Jerry Lewis.

Elvis loved to laugh. A good comic affected Elvis in a positive way. He grew up watching Abbott and Costello and The Bowery Boys.

From Abbott and Costello, Elvis came to know the comedians/ comediennes popular in the fifties while he was starting out in the business of entertaining. Especially as a guest--and a sensation--both on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Milton Berle Show, Elvis came to witness, first-hand, the antics of some of the eras most notable entertainers. Berle, who could be a hard charger with a bad temper, had warmed up to Elvis, and Elvis enjoyed Berle's brand of humor.  "I Love Lucy," another popular sitcom of the period, obviously made Elvis laugh and Lucille Ball became another favorite.

As the years progressed, the comic lot was changing, becoming more a switch from slapstick humor to modern craziness, to be found in the broad British troop of comedic genius, Monty Python, and more aptly, "Monty Python's Flying Circus." In the late sixties and early seventies, Elvis found the British comedy riotous and became nothing short of obsessed with the brilliant skits as performed by John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, and Terry Jones. Elvis found their brand of humor absolutely off-the-wall, the type of craziness/silliness that Elvis, himself, could on occasion spin off. Peter Sellers was another comedic talent fav of Elvis.

Jerry Lewis and Elvis did have alot in common, unbeknownst to Elvis when he first enjoyed Lewis' movies and comedic skills on the Colgate Comedy Hour of the 1950's. Elvis' also became a fan and also liked Deab Martin's singing style and began to pattern his own singing style to that of crooner, half of the unique comedy team of Martin and Lewis. Dean Martin had been Elvis' favorite singer before others came along; he simply liked Dean's style, basing his own rendition of "Love Me Tender," Elvis first movie, close to the singing style of Martin. As Dean became an Elvis favorite, so the team of Martin and Lewis became a favorite comedic duo.

Though their personalities were as different as night and day, both the king of Rock and Roll and the king of comedy would cross similar paths.

An interviewer once asked Elvis if he had heard that Martin and Lewis broke up to which Elvis replied that he had heard something about it. Then the interviewer joked with Elvis, telling him that Hal Wallis was thinking of co-starring Elvis together with Jerry Lewis for a new picture. Elvis was stunned, surprised at least. "Jerry Lewis?" Elvis quipped back. Elvis was then asked if he thought Jerry and he wouldn't get along. "'s not that," cited Elvis, "that's Dean Martin and it'll always be Dean and Jerry, nothin' else." Elvis meant it. Elvis always spoke his mind and spoke the truth. No one else except Dean Martin could ever stand beside Jerry Lewis as part of a comedy duo. Cut and dried, Martin and Lewis had made their permanent mark, even on Elvis Presley.

• Jerry Lewis is one who believes that comedic skills should be enhanced by one's own talent and skill and not by unleashing obscenities or crude language such as do some of today's younger set of stand-up comics. Elvis would have whole-heartedly agreed. It is an art to perform and a talent rare to be a great performer. Both men knew this enough to become as successful as they have. Elvis was not happy with but tolerated impersonators and sometimes encouraged early Elvis tribute artists, but also encouraging them not to make a living impersonating him but of promoting their own talents.

Lewis sometimes impersonated the famous talents of the day and among his great impersonations of the time was James Cagney. while Cagney was still alive. Regarding Elvis impersonators, Lewis feels differently. On the MDA Telethon of 2006, Jerry hesitated about accepting an ETA performance on the show. While lunching with the telethon's director, Eddie Foy, Lewis commented on the idealogy of Elvis impersonators, saying: "Why can't they let the man rest in peace?"

When Trent Carlini performed for Jerry, Lewis was evidently impressed and Carlini was allowed to perform, however, not without a compromise: that he (Carlini) would not "be" Elvis but would appear as himself singing an Elvis medley.2

Sadly, if Elvis knew that Dean Martin was not a fan, he would have been crushed. While Elvis admired Dean and Jerry, it was Jerry and Gary Lewis who admired the King. On meeting Elvis Presley at the Paramount Studios where both made their films, Lewis wrote in his memoirs that Elvis was "...was the nicest young man I ever met."3

1,2- sources compiled from the Las Vegas Review Journal, Aug.2006 | NORM: Elvis stylist wins over Jerry Lewis"

Jerry Lewis, like Elvis, has become an icon in the history of entertainment. The King of Rock and Roll and the King of Comedy. Two special and gifted talents both with deep humanitarian ways.

The interesting portion of this story are the ironies between Elvis and Jerry, and here are listed some of the similarities:

Elvis admired philanthropists and had great respect for such people including Al Jolson, Lou Costello, and Danny Thomas. Jerry Lewis was also considered among these highly regarded, selfless doers of good deeds. Lewis, famous for his devotion to needy causes, in particular of doing charitable works for Muscular Dystrophy since the early 1950's, his philanthropic deeds are noteworthy as are Elvis own charitable acts and donations.

Of histories biggest Las Vegas entertainers, Elvis and Jerry Lewis come to mind. Elvis had grown increasingly tired of the Las Vegas circuit and a difficulty with management was beginning to stress him immensely before his untimely death in 1977. While Elvis was happiest being able to entertain his fans whom he loved, he was not happy with the situation in Las Vegas. Conversing over lunch one day with his pastor, Elvis was asked why he didn't just up and leave that industry, to which Elvis replied that though he would like to, he "could not just walk away" from it. Jerry was able to withstand the industry and to this day has a continuing 20-year contract to perform in Vegas. Both men knew Frank Sinatra, Jerry was very friendly with Frank while Elvis appeared on Frank's show and knew him though his (Elvis) acquaintance with Frank's daughter, Nancy, then engaged to singer, Tommy Sands. It was Nancy Sinatra who gave Priscilla Presley her baby shower. Both men became legends in Las Vegas and had earned a substantial portion of their capital from playing to audiences there for many years. The ironies began in Las Vegas where both men became vulnerable to the "management" and their rules and regs, both involved themselves with women and pills to help ward off constant pain, making each a victim of addiction. In Hollywood, the same but now they would have more in common.

Back to top