Movie Talk

Jerry Lewis: I Can’t Watch Women Do Comedy

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Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis at this year's Cannes Film Festival (Photo: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Jerry Lewis has been angering female comedians again, and there's at least one working actor who probably isn't fond of him, either.

The veteran comedian and filmmaker was at the Cannes Film Festival Thursday, doing a press conference to promote his new film "Max Rose." It was the first time Lewis has appeared at the prestigious film festival in twenty years, and most of his public interview was a love fest. But when Lewis was asked about his controversial opinions about women in comedy, he made it clear he thinks ladies should stay out of the funny business.

"People doing comedy that are females is one thing," Lewis said. "But when the female takes that ability and puts it in a single context on a stage doing this and that (gestures physically) and trying to capture the basis of what broad comedy is, I can't see women doing that … I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities to the lowest common denominator. I just cannot do that."

And when asked who his favorite female comedians were, Lewis quipped, "My favorite female comedienne is Cary Grant. And Burt Reynolds." After stopping to laugh, Lewis continued, "I don’t have any."

Note to Jerry Lewis: Avoid running into Burt Reynolds in a dark alley in the future.

Lewis's comments were slightly less harsh but consistent with statements he's made in the past. Lewis was interviewed by actor Martin Short in front of an audience at the 1998 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, where Lewis declared, "I don't like any female comedians." When Short said he imagined he must have liked Lucille Ball, Lewis replied that he didn't, and went on to say, "A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world."

Jerry might also steer clear of certified funny woman Tina Fey, who addressed Lewis's 1998 statements in her 2011 autobiography "Bossypants." Fey wrote, "Whenever someone says to me, 'Jerry Lewis says women aren't funny,' or 'Christopher Hitchens says women aren't funny ... Do you have anything to say to that?'"

Fey's reply? "Yes. We don't f---ing care if you like it."

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