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Richard Lewis Reveals Parkinson’s Diagnosis, Says He’s Stepping Away From Stand-Up Comedy

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: George Rose / Getty Images
Photo Credit: George Rose / Getty Images

American comedian and actor Richard Lewis recently took to Twitter to explain to his nearly 240,000 fans where he’s been for the last couple of years. In the video he posted, he revealed that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and that as a result, he made the decision to retire from stand-up comedy. However, this is not a full retirement, as he intends to continue working elsewhere in show business.

Lewis had a really successful career in comedy

Headshot of Richard Lewis with his hands to his forehead.
Comedian Richard Lewis poses for a portrait in 1985 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Aaron Rapoport / Corbis / Getty Images)

Lewis first began his career as a stand-up comic by performing his own sets at improv clubs in New York City in the early 1970s. He was quickly discovered by comedian David Brenner and was brought to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He went on to perform several comedy specials, including I‘m in Pain (1985), I’m Exhausted (1988), and I’m Doomed (1990). Lewis was so successful that he was included in the top 50 of Comedy Central’s top 100 comedians of all time list in 2004.

He started his acting career in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but really found traction as an actor in the 1989 sitcom, Anything but Love. He starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis on the show and went on to be cast in a series of popular acting roles, including in the 1993 comedy film Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Most recently, he appeared in multiple seasons of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago

Headshot of Richard Lewis with shadows on his face, standing in a garden.
Comedian and actor Richard Lewis poses for a portrait at his home on February 20, 2020. (Photo Credit: Emily Berl / The Washington Post / Getty Images)

Fans have been wondering where the comedian has been for the last few years, which he finally addressed in the video. “Here’s really what happened,” he said. “Three and half years ago I was in the middle of a tour and I finally ended it with a show. I said, ‘You know I’m at the top of my game, after 15 years almost I’m going to call it quits,’ and I felt great about that and then out of the blue the [stuff] hit the fan. I had four surgeries back to back to back to back, it was incredible, I couldn’t believe it, it was bad luck, but that’s life.”

Lewis explained that it was at this time that he “went to a neurologist and they gave me a brain scan” after he noticed that he was experiencing stiffness when he walked and was shuffling his feet. He was then diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “That was about two years ago,” he said. “But luckily I got it late in life and they say you progress very slowly if at all and I’m on the right meds so I’m cool.”

He is in good hands, though. “I’m under a doctor’s care and everything is cool,” he said. “I love my wife, I love my little puppy dog and I love all my friends and my fans. And now you know where it’s been at the last three and a half years. God bless you.”

Lewis has decided to stick to acting

Richard Lewis standing with his arm in a sling, hands clasped in front of his stomach.
Richard Lewis has undergone several surgeries over the past couple of years, including shoulder surgeries that required him to wear a sling. (Photo by Emily Berl / The Washington Post / Getty Images)

In the video, Lewis also addressed his decision to step away from stand-up comedy and focus his time on other projects as a result of the diagnosis. “I’m finished with stand-up. I’m just focusing on writing and acting,” he said. He just wrapped up his latest project, starring in season 12 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, created by Larry David.

“Hey listen, I just wrapped a couple of weeks ago season 12 of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and it was just an amazing season and I’m so grateful to be a part of that show,” Lewis said. In the show, Lewis plays a fictionalized version of himself.

In a previous interview with Howard Stern, Lewis explained how he had previously met David when they both attended summer camp at the age of 12.

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According to Lewis, the two didn’t get along at first, but as they progressed in their careers, they became good friends. “Hated him, never saw him again until I became a comic, became best friends,” he described. “When I became a comic, he loved my work, and I loved his work.”

Share your thoughts about Richard Lewis stepping away from stand-up in the comments below!

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!