Richard Lewis, one of America’s most beloved and revered stand-up comics who also played a fictionalized version of himself on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, died last night at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack. He was 76.
His death was confirmed by his publicist Jeff Abraham. Lewis had been living with Parkinson’s disease, a diagnosis he revealed in April, 2023.
“His wife, Joyce Lapinsky, thanks everyone for all the love, friendship and support and asks for privacy at this time,” Abraham said.
Lewis, who got his start in the New York and Los Angeles comedy scenes of the 1970s along with comics such as Andy Kaufman, Richard Belzer and Elayne Boosler and quickly became a favorite of late night shows including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, developed a singular stage persona nearly as dark as the all-black clothes he favored.
His first Showtime special, pointedly titled I’m In Pain, aired in 1985. He became on of the premiere presences on HBO with comedy specials in 1988, 1990 and 1997.
Film credits included 1993’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights, in which he played Prince John, and 1995’s Drunks. Also that year, he appeared in Leaving Las Vegas.
Lewis began what would arguably be his signature role – based, fittingly enough, on himself – in 2000 when he was cast by his childhood friend Larry David on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. The two New Yorkers had met at summer camp when they were 12 and re-established their friendship on the New York comedy circuit a decade later.
Although he largely retired from performing following his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he returned to Curb periodically, most recently during the show’s current (and final) season.
Rest in Peace to one of the best actors to portray Prince John.
And of course, he was a great comedian as well.