Jerry Lewis Ousted As MDA Telethon Host

After almost a half a century of service, it is being reported that Jerry Lewis has been abruptly dismissed as the host of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.’s telethon.

The group has given no specific details about why the decision was made, but says the 85-year-old comedian would not appear on this year’s telethon, and would no longer serve as its national chairman, a position he held for nearly 60 years. MDA Chairman of the Board, R. Rodney Howell, said in a statement,

“Jerry Lewis is a world-class humanitarian and we’re forever grateful to him for his more than half century of generous service to MDA.”

According to the LA Times, the announcement and mysterious circumstances surrounding Lewis’ departure provoked many responses from comedians and other performers, ranging from Paul Rodriguez and Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada to Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle.  Rodriguez commented,

“As a fellow comedian, it’s really crappy the way they treated him…The man is an institution. They should have found a better way to let him go.”

Masada also responded along the same lines, saying, “He’s the face of the telethon…Without him, there’s no show.”

The decision seems to be a complete turnaround from the MDA’s announcement in May that Lewis would host the telethon for a final time this year, and would appear in the closing moments of future telethons to sing his trademark number, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”  A spokesperson said it did not expect to name a new host this year and that the Sept. 4 event would be shepherded by entertainment personalities Nigel Lythgoe, Jann Carl, Alison Sweeney and Nancy O’Dell.

Muscular Dystrophy is a group of more than 40 disorders that affect more than 1 million Americans. The maladies, sometimes referred to as neuromuscular disorders, weaken the muscles and eventually result in profound disability. The most common form of the disease is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which affects about 1 in 3,500 males worldwide.

When asked on Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills what he would have to do to be satisfied with his life, Lewis replied: “Get the cure for muscular dystrophy, then I’m fine.”

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