Comedy legend Jerry Lewis isn’t an American Idol fan.
The 85-year-old veteran comedian and telethon organizer and took a moment from promoting his upcoming documentary to bash reality TV, suggesting contestants are not worthy of the medium.
“The kids who’re on American Idol, they’re all McDonalds wipe outs,” Lewis told TV critics at their summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “They all worked there and now they’re doing [reality TV].” Lewis then shifted focus to weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser, noting networks are showing “the fat lady” dropping weight from more than 300 pounds to 240 pounds. “Who gives a s—?” he asked. “The industry has destroyed itself.”
Lewis is the subject of a new Encore documentary, The Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, and noted that he deeply respects TV in general. “I don’t allow people in my family to use the term ‘TV.’ It’s ‘television,’ it’s a miracle, and deserves respect.”
The comic recalled people rushing home to watch Milton Berle. “Nobody wants to run home and see anything, they run home and hope they see something.”
Lewis also didn’t much appreciate the trend of putting content on mobile devices. “They put all of their product on the stupid phone,” he said. “You’re gonna put Lawrence of Arabia on that stupid son of a bitch?”
When a critic asked about people spending time on Twitter and Facebook, an “ohhh” went through the room as critics readied themselves for another take-down, but on this point Lewis was more circumspect: “I think it’s wonderful for people who enjoy using it,” Lewis said. “When they find out they’re getting their life cluttered, they’ll make those decisions [to dump the technology] for themselves. They don’t need to be told by a celebrity that it’s a load of crap.”
The one thing Lewis would not elaborate on was the future of his involvement with his annual muscular dystrophy telethon, which airs in September. Lewis announced earlier this year this fall would mark his final performance in the event, which he’s hosted since 1966. But at press tour he told reporters not to believe everything they read and said he’ll make an announcement the day after the telethon.
“It’s none of your business,” Lewis said when pressed on his telethon participation. “Anything you read, read it twice.”