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Comedian Richard Lewis, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ star, dead at 76

<i>Emily Berl/For The Washington Post/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Comedian and actor Richard Lewis
Emily Berl/For The Washington Post/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Comedian and actor Richard Lewis

By Dan Heching, Brian Lowry and Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

(CNN) — Comedian and actor Richard Lewis, whose self-deprecating humor and acerbic wit in shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Anything but Love” entertained audiences for decades, has died, according to his publicist Jeff Abraham. He was 76.

Abraham said in an email to CNN that the entertainer passed away “peacefully” at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday night after having a heart attack.

In April of 2023, Richard revealed that he had been living with Parkinson’s disease.

Known as a comic’s comic, Lewis made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1974, becoming a staple of the late-night comedy scene.

On screen, Lewis has played himself for years on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” opposite his friend Larry David, at one point joking during an episode this season about which one of them looked worse.

As his career blossomed with cable specials in the 1980s, Lewis also migrated into acting roles, starring opposite Jamie Lee Curtis in the sitcom “Anything but Love,” playing Prince John in Mel Brooks’ movie comedy “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and branching out into drama as a struggling alcoholic in the 1995 film “Drunks.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for HBO (which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery), said Lewis’ “comedic brilliance, wit and talent were unmatched.”

“Richard will always be a cherished member of the HBO and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ families, our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and all the fans who could count on Richard to brighten their days with laughter,” the statement read.

‘Enthusiasm’ for a lasting friendship

Arguably best known for his role on “Curb,” Lewis just recently shared that the decision to play himself on the hit series was creator David’s idea.

“It’s spectacularly unique to be able to be in a scene where other actors are not themselves and I’m myself,” Lewis told Vanity Fair in an interview that was published earlier this month.

Lewis and David’s relationship extended beyond the screen, having been in each other’s lives since their 20s. Their friendship is the mechanism that led David to asking Lewis to join the cast of “Curb.”

Calling David “the best friend you could ever imagine,” Lewis said in the interview that “the show gives me another vehicle to express my feelings to Larry, because we are the oldest of friends.”

Upon learning of his friend’s death on Wednesday, David said in a statement to CNN via HBO, “Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me. He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I’ll never forgive him.”

Born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, Lewis attended Ohio State University, writing ad copy while moonlighting by writing jokes for comedians before he began his stand-up career.

A candid and authentic comic

Lewis was candid in interviews and through his comedy about his struggles with alcoholism and addiction. In a 2017 interview with CNN, he reflected on how his decades of sobriety (he had been sober since 1994) impacted his comedy career.

“I was hellbent on being honest as a comedian from the get-go and I was,” he said.

“But it wasn’t until I admitted that I was a drunk and an alcoholic… And when I got clean and sober is when my comedy really took off for me personally because then I was really myself on stage.”

Lewis performed stand-up comedy for 50 years until he took his final bow in 2018 at Chicago’s Zanies. He was known for turning his personal neuroses – and struggles – into the focus of his act.

“There’s just a part of me that’s always going to be never totally happy,” he said in a 2020 interview with the Washington Post.

But that sentiment wasn’t always reflective of his reality. “I’m thrilled to be alive,” he said at the time. “I’m grateful for who’s in my life. I’ve got great friends, a great wife, a dog, and I have a great career.”

Lewis’ representative said the comic’s wife, Joyce Lapinsky, thanked “everyone for all the love, friendship and support and asks for privacy at this time.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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