Ever since our disastrous interview with that fucker from Boston Common—who kept snottily asking, "Is this how you conduct all your interviews?"—we've made an effort to actually write down questions beforehand. But Richard Lewis—the arm-waving maniac from that show with Jamie Lee Curtis, where they met on an airplane, remember?—was too quick for us. He seemed to know instinctively what kind of lame questions we'd be asking and moved around mercilessly, making us struggle to keep up, in between trying to have phone sex with us and telling us he'd sue if we printed that he was trying to have phone sex with us. You know the type: Mr. Lawsuit-Happy. I'm gonna sue. I wasn't trying to have phone sex with you. Me, me, me!
OC Weekly [to his machine]: Hi, this is Rebecca Schoenkopf from theOC Weekly. I'm at . . .Richard Lewis: Sscrrraaawwwk! I didn't flake out! I haven't answered directly in 15 years. Really?
I might have slipped up once or twice, but yeah.
Well, then, I'm gonna have to skip to question No. 2. Why do Jewish men have a reputation for being neurotic?
Do they? That is such a stereotype! I think we're neurotic with flair. I think we have a tendency to moan about things without being irrational.
Question 2-a: So, you are, in fact, Jewish?
Yes, I am. But I have a lot of neurotic African-American friends. I have a Rainbow Coalition of neurotic friends who could give me a run for my money at my therapist's. I'm down to the wire creatively on this book I'm working on. I'm trying to leave no self-effacing stone unturned. It's been harrowing to be as honest as I can. There's not much sleep coming now with the book staring at me. My manager just had a baby boy, and I don't have children myself. . . .
You're skipping ahead! That's question No. 12!
Okay, I'll make this brief, and then you can ask the definitive questions. I don't think I could have a baby. I think I need more attention. Am I a man's man or what? It has served me well; I am needy, and I have no problem being mothered. Women find it irresistible to mother a middle-aged man.
Uh, yeah. Do you often get confused with Richard Belzer fromHomicide?
Uh, no. Not really. He's one of my oldest friends in comedy. We go back almost 30 years. To people who don't really know comedy, we might get confused. They could as easily point to me and say, "Look, it's Dom DeLuise!" But Richard Belzer and I don't really look anything alike. He's so skinny! It's like hanging out with a really funny pencil.
Were the '80s a big orgy of comedy groupies and filthy gobs of money?
Some years, yeah. I wasn't an orgy freak. I'm more traditional, one-on-one. There were quite a fewsocial workers who were coming home with me after a show. But I've become much more responsible. I've never been divorced, never committed adultery.
But you've never been married.
When you get to a certain age and have never been married, there's a thin line between dating and womanizing.
If you had an island, what would you call it?
That was question No. 9: Do you live in New York? And are you, in fact, Jewish?
No, I live in LA. Born in Brooklyn; reared in New Jersey.
Torturously close to Manhattan. I went to the same high school as John Travolta.
Do you like Orange County?
I have nothing against it. I travel all over the country, and when I do comedy, give me that mic, and I will try to love that audience as much as I can.
You didn't really answer the question. Do you have a wacky neighbor in real life? And are you a good neighbor?
Almost every neighbor I've ever had I would consider wacky. I did have one with a pit bull; I didn't like that. He said it had papers. I asked, "What about that handgun it's carrying?" I live in Hollywood in the hills, and I can sit on the toilet and see all the houses of all the girlfriends and agents I've fired. It's the best toilet I've ever had.
That's question No. 13. Your publicist is really nice, unlike the PR people for that guy fromBoston Common. If they were rude, would you fire them? Have you ever fired anybody, and if so, did you like it?
Absolutely! Hundreds! I hated it, but there's just so much abuse you can take. I've been very loyal in my career, so it was always kind of heart-wrenching. It's a difficult business when you have to turn over your livelihood to other people and sit home on a keg of talent. But they've probably got fire insurance.
[after a few seconds] Oh! Heh, heh.
Don't give any mercy laughs! That was stupid!
Hey, I loved that show with Jamie Lee Curtis, where you did that thing with your hands a lot, and you met on an airplane, remember?
Oh, that was a great four years. It was a lot of fun. We have remained soul mates. I got blamed for her being married by about 300,000 cab drivers. She has a great husband, a great family, and I have great furniture.
Got any good show-biz gossip for me?
That's rude! I wouldn't dish on anybody! I'd be sued. Look, I'm saving it all for the book; let me get sued by all 300,000 people at once. You're captivating, you know that?
Sorry, I have to write this all down by hand because my tape recorders always fuck up at the wrong time.
I wish you had a tape recorder; you're gonna misquote me.
No, I'm a great quoter. You know, like Truman Capote trained himself to remember conversations word for word! It's just like that, except, you know, I write everything down, so it's not really like that at all.
Schoenkopf is a great name. Your uncle could have invented the atomic bomb. Or else it sounds like a cough.
That's great. Thanks.
You have a really sensual voice. It's captivating. I'll give you five seconds to get that thing out of your closet. I'm wearing black silk pajamas. I love silk pajamas.
So, what do you really think about OC? Do you like malls?
If I'm in the mood to get stroked and recognized, I go. It's not like I'm Springsteen walking around, but I definitely can't pick my nose anymore in public, even if it's an itch and not a pick. When I'm alone, it's more fun. It's like I flash back to starting out, and somebody recognizes me, "Hey! Richard Lewis!" Ninety-nine percent of the people are really neat, but there's always the fringe who think you're moving in with them. When I'm on a date or something, I don't like to be bothered.
Do you pick your nose a lot?
I did it in high school plenty. Can we get off that?
Are you gonna watchWest Wing tonight?
Is the premiere tonight? I have a lot of friends on that show. I've known Rob [Lowe] a long time. [Long rant by me about Bill Clinton, which I have excised for you, the reader. You're welcome.]
What do you think of Madonna's British accent?
I couldn't care less about her accent. I did meet her once—and Sean Penn. He walked over to me, and this was in the early days. I thought he was gonna punch me out, like maybe he caught me accidentally staring at his wife. But he came over and said, "We're big fans!" I was so thankful. I thought he was gonna break my knees. . . .
Are you a good dresser?
Fantastic dresser! I'm shocked I'm not on the 10 Best list. But I guess it's because I only wear black.
Did you wear brown last season, when it was the new black?
No, I only wear black.
Is that a Nietzschean thing?
Maybe! No, initially, it was to hide from my feelings. Honey—and I mean that in the best feminist way; it's Yiddish for "woman who could kick your ass"—I'm gonna see you on the chat rooms in a minute, I just know it.
Naah. How fast do you type?
Fuggedaboutit! I'm really good online. You have a great voice.
So do you.
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Enjoy the veal!
Richard Lewis performs at the Irvine Improv, 4255 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-5455. Thurs., 8:30 p.m. $15; Fri., 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $17; Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m. $15; Sun., 8 p.m. $17. Thurs. & Sun., 18+; Sat.-Sun., 21+.