At the age of 44, renowned comedian Richard Lewis found himself on a gurney in the ER, toxic with alcohol, and hallucinating from excess cocaine use. The same neuroses and dysfunctions that had been the basis for his successful stage persona and inspired his best material had, it seemed, turned on him.
How he got there, how he finally got on the road to recovery, and how he copes with being Richard Lewis sober on a daily basis are the subjects of this very funny, deeply honest, inspiring, but very untreacly book. USA Today called it "candid and inspirational. A journey through Lewis' personal Inferno to eventual salvation."
Fans of Lewis's bleak shtick are the natural audience for these searing, confessional riffs on the comic's angst, acute alcoholism and relentless sexual conquests, but it's hard to imagine that the uninitiated would enjoy the musings of "a bad-postured, guilt-ridden ball of confusion with a trace of paranoia, self-loathing and a little faith thrown in for some taste." Lewis attributes his misery to his parents: a sullen mother whose antipathy toward her son is not fully explored; his distant but admired father died young. The New Jersey boy found his escape route via jokes and isolation and, eventually, Ohio State University. Though he makes a sort of peace with his mother at the end of her life, the author reserves his moments of near-tenderness for members of comedy royalty: Buster Keaton's elegant widow, Eleanor, and Lenny Bruce's raucous mother, Sally Marr. (However, larger-than-life icon Jackie Gleason displays less-than-noble behavior to Lewis.) In his early 20s, Lewis found a mentor in the manager of a legendary Brooklyn comedy club. After the requisite struggles on the stand-up circuit, he made it big in many venues: HBO specials, a movie and a four-year stint in a TV series, Anything but Love. Bouts of debilitating drunkenness and the interventions of loyal friends led Lewis to the Hazelden clinic, though he dropped out in two days, opting to manage his own recovery. Though he now struggles to be monogamous with his current "lady," Lewis's mostly cynical rants about desperate women and PMS won't win him any new female fans.