A consummate entertainer and world-renowned humanitarian, Jerry Lewis is not just a cultural icon in the United States - he's one of the most easily recognized personalities on the planet. Widely regarded as a comic genius, regarded as one of the true giants of the motion picture industry, and internationally celebrated for his vast contributions to humanity, Jerry personifies the term "living legend."
Newsweek, in 2001, listed the most recognizable people on the planet:
1. Muhammad AIi;
2. President Bush;
3. Margaret Thatcher;
4. Walter Cronkite;
5. A tie between the Pope and Jerry Lewis.
Jerry Lewis has been the Abbot (or CEO) of the legendary Friars Club since 2006, stepping into the shoes previous filled by Alan King and his dear friend Frank Sinatra. Jerry has the distinction of being honored by the Friars Club four times (the only person with more salutes at five is Milton Berle who served as Abbot on and off for nearly 3 decades). Jerry’s dinner with Dean Martin in 1955 boasted only one woman on the dais–Marilyn Monroe. He was roasted in 1971, 1986 and 2006–this is the highest honor that the Friars Club can bestow on an individual.
Jerry received the Friars Club’s Comedy Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 for his outstanding work in film both in front of the cameras as well as a producer, director and writer. He received the award from Quentin Tarantino during a SRO press conference at the Friars Club’s midtown Manhattan headquarters.
Whenever he comes to town the Friars private dining room is filled with his fellow Friars who enjoy hearing his stories while tossing out quips, creating an atmosphere that was prevalent when the rat pack held court in the 1960s. Under Jerry Lewis’ aegis the Friars Club has remained a constant and integral part of the show business community and continues to play a significant role as a moving force in the entertainment industry.
"Jerry Lewis is a man for all seasons, all people and all times. His name has, in the hearts of millions, become synonymous with peace, love, and brotherhood." The late Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, then a congressman from Wisconsin, penned those words in 1977 in the conclusion of his nomination of Jerrv for the Nobel Peace Prize. Never in the history of show business has an entertainer been so honored.
In 1984, the government of France officially recognized that country's legendary admiration of Jerry Lewis by giving him its two most distinguished awards. First, Lewis was made a Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters, and was extolled by French Minister of Culture Jack Lang for his "human qualities and generosity. You are a child's friend, and a model for adults." Later that same year, Jerry was inducted into the Legion of Honor by the decree of President Francois Mitterand. Legion membership honors individuals whose accomplishments demonstrate extraordinary public service.
Back in the United States, on June 8, 1985, the Defense Department presented Jerry with its highest civilian award - the Medal for Distinguished Public Service. The citation that accompanies the engraved gold medal reads, in part: "His service has had a profound effect on the youth of our country, on men and women in uniform today and their children, and on those children who shall one day serve our country in its defense."
In December 1996, the American Medical Association presented its Lifetime Achievement Awards to Jerry and MDA "for significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity." Jerry was honored for his decades of dedication to MDA, becoming only the fifth person in AMA history to receive this award.
As National Chairman of MDA, Jerry has devoted two-thirds of his lifetime to the effort to eradicate neuromuscular diseases. His unflagging, year-round work for this cause has endeared him to millions. Under Jerry's leadership, the Association has been and will continue to be - the recognized leader in the worldwide fight against these diseases.