Jerry Lewis's MDA telethon 2012 no longer has the man Lewis on it, nor is it a live 21.5-hour show anymore. Much has changed since Lewis "retired" from the show. The annual Muscular Dystrophy Association TV fundraiser that was fronted by the comedian for 45 years was renamed "MDA Show of Strength." This year's telethon, or entertainment special, was pre-produced and taped and only ran for 3 hours.
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MDA's interim president Valerie Cwik said, "It has to change because the American audience has changed. A 21.5-hour show doesn't fit in a 140-character world."
The change also meant Lewis was no longer needed. A year after his departure, it seems as if Lewis was never really a part of the MDA. According to Time Entertainment, MDA is not doing so well without Lewis. Lewis had fundraised an impressive $2.5 billion during his time with MDA.
When asked about his leave from MDA, the 86-year-old said to Time Entertainment's Richard Zoglin, "That's not a place I want to go. Because if I go there, you'll never get me back. "It's not that I don't want to talk about it. But I have already ingested all that I want from that whole f-ing adventure."
Lewis was supposed to make a goodbye appearance however MDA and Lewis could not come to terms on the format of the annual event. Lewis hoped for a live event however the charity was leaning toward the event being pre-taped. As a result, Lewis' good bye appearance was altogether taken out.
Richard Belzer of Law and Order has become very close to Lewis, who is like a father figure for him. Belzer revealed, "This was a hurt man."
"It's as if they were trying to provoke him to leave. It was a moral outrage, a PR nightmare and a sad commentary on this incredible philanthropic career."
MDA claims that Lewis has retired. "We honor Jerry Lewis, we admire the work he's done for us, and we respect his decision to retire," said Cwik.
Here are some mixed reactions from long time donors regarding Lewis' leave.
"No Jerry, no tote board, no live show? No pledge from me. The MDA has managed disgrace itself and scrape the bottom of the barrel. The shame of it is that the "kids" are the ones who will suffer the most as a result. Pathetic," said a Lewis fan named Brian.
Another person wrote, "Love this new format...the program moves smoothly, quickly and without unwanted and unneeded commentary. Thanks for your work In the past Jerry, but this new format is EXACTLY what this worthwhile fundraising program needed. I'm down for a donation!"
"I agree No Jerry, No pledge from me! I was a faithful viewer and contributor to the MDA telethon in the past. I am very upset with the way Jerry was disrespected after so many years of dedication to MDA and the telethon. If you don't have and show respect you have nothing. Jerry we love you and we respect you for all that you have done for MDA. God Bless you, hold your head up high and be proud of your contribution to MDA. GEM," expressed a disappointed fan.
Another commenter wrote, "Telethon aside anyways...why don't you donate your time to help these kids or spend time with people affected and then tell me you wouldn't do everything in your power to help them get a treatment or a cure. Remember Muscular Dystrophy is not a telethon or Jerry Lewis. Muscular Dystrophy is a muscle wasting disease that kills kids and adults. Its Real and Real people have to live with it and die from it!!"
Many agree that with or without Jerry Lewis, the most important point is bringing awareness to support those affected by the disease. Many also agree that Labor Day is just not the same without Lewis.