The obituary from Hell

While editing local news stories for this week’s issue of The Uniter, I was distracted by a news alert on my phone. I usually pay these no mind when I’m deep in production of the paper, but the photo in my peripheral vision caught my eye. The long hair and dark eyes were unmistakably those of comedian and actor Richard Lewis.

The news was that Lewis had died of a heart attack at age 76. For years, Lewis was a somewhat marginal figure in pop culture, coming to prominence in the standup boom of the 1980s and as a frequent guest on both David Letterman’s and Conan O’Brien’s versions of Late Night. His specific, neurotic persona ensured him regular, if minor, guest-starring roles in sitcoms and animated television.

Lewis could have remained an all-time great “that guy” if not for his recurring role on Curb Your Enthusiasm, playing a fictionalized version of himself. He played the best friend of the show’s creator and star, Larry David. The depiction mirrored their real-life relationship: the two met at summer camp when they were 12 years old.

Richard Lewis became an unlikely icon for a certain brand of neurotic wretch, a club I certainly belong to. Like a lot of millennials, I fell in love with Curb as a teen. I used to joke all the time that, “When I was a boy, I thought I was just like Larry David. When I became a man, I realized I’m actually Richard Lewis.” I’ll still think of him every time I complain to my friends about a breakup or decline a social invite with a too-elaborate explanation of a chronic health condition.

Published in Volume 78, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 29, 2024)

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