Still after all these years, Lewis remains addicted to performing before live audiences and is on a continuous stand up tour. In live performance he is often compared to a jazz musician for his wild riffs that fly out into space but always find a way to float back into rhythm as they splatter recurring themes against a spiraling, lyrical backdrop. Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune recently noted, in a piece comparing comedy and jazz, “In Lenny Bruce's fantasy, celebrated writers would say: "This guy is the greatest jazz sound in the world – he's so hip, his name is Lenny Bruce.' "To this day, Bruce's foremost heir -- comedian Richard Lewis -- conveys the lightning energy of a solo by bebop icon Charlie Parker." A N.Y. Post article noted; "Richard Lewis built the strongest stand-up comedy career on a blazing trail of neuroses since Woody Allen."
Another time Reich reflected on his history with Lewis. "Nearly 20 years ago... I headed for Zanies and witnessed the most audacious comic wordsmith this side of Lenny Bruce: a young neurotic comedian named Richard Lewis. Ever since that revelatory evening, I've followed Richard's ascent as perhaps the most gifted comedian of his generation." Indeed others agree. The Baltimore Jewish Times said, "Lewis is oftentimes compared to the late Lenny Bruce, the prolific, dissenting comedic voice of the '60's. And the two share many things in common-- Judaism, an uncommon intelligence and irreverence for topics considered untouchable. Like Bruce, Mr. Lewis lays his soul bare on the stage, with fearlessness and many times, recklessness..." City Weekly of Salt Lake City concurred, "Nowhere will you find an entertainer so committed to his craft as comedian Richard Lewis.... His ability to keep people laughing at his self-loathing and dark views on every aspect of his life is what keeps him one of the greatest comedians of all time."
At Mort Sahl’s birthday tribute, featuring a who's who of comic genius, Mark Groubert writing for Crooksandliars.com, commented: "But this Night at the Opera belonged to none other than Richard Lewis who has hit his comic stride entering the free form worlds of both Lenny Bruce and the under-appreciated Lord Buckley. Groovin' high, and dressed in a zippered black suit possibly designed by the mistress of the Dali Lama, the 'Prince of Pain' came to compete. Melting the house and forcing grown men to weep openly Richard Lewis bombarded the crowd from one obtuse comedy angle after another. If this was the comedy World Series, Lewis was the King in his Court. For nearly twenty minutes he induced non-stop howling by every living, breathing thing in the house."
Philadelphia's City Paper says, "Indeed, he is the Jimi Hendrix of monologists, whose virtuoso free-form riffs on ex-girlfriends, family and other antagonistic denizens from hell are delivered in a mesmerizing, stream-of-consciousness frenzy, a piss-yourself-laughing assault on the senses.
Not only is he one of the undisputed masters of postmodern comedy, but also to incurable, self- loathing neurotics he is a patron saint who deserves to be canonized".
Vintage Lewis is available in the box set of his “Concerts from Hell” (The Vintage Years), containing three comedy specials: HBO originally aired "I'm Exhausted," earning him an ACE nomination for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special and “I'm Doomed”, his second for HBO, also earned an Ace nomination. His cable-special debut, "I'm In Pain" had aired on Showtime. Playboy says, "Kvetching is elevated to surreal art in these great comedy performances. The titles say it all. Don't miss."
Lewis has been a contributing writer for Playboy Magazine, writing numerous pieces over the years inclusive of a series of essays in 2012.
In 2000, Lewis wrote his memoir, "The Other Great Depression," published by the prestigious Perseus/ Public Affairs. It is as brave, insightful and forthcoming as is his
comedy. He deconstructs his substance abuse and recovery, skewing it his unique way. The book is a collection of fearless, essay style riffs featuring Lewis' dark stream-of-consciousness personal observations. Also, the reissue of "The Other Great Depression" is on audiobook, read unabridged by the author for Phoenix Audio. "Richard Lewis Naked," a documentary following Richard behind the scenes on his promotional book tour, is also available.
The Huffington Post said this of the book: "Other than Lewis's paperback catharsis,
which probably belongs in the alienated, dyspeptic Jewish-American canon along with Philip Roth, Henry Roth, Lenny Bruce, and all the rest, comedians' memoirs tend to be pretty breezy--and very short--reads...” New York Magazine said, "Lewis's standard of total honesty has allowed him to unearth neuroses he'd never even touch onstage--or on the couch." Entertainment Weekly added, [An] urgent, nervous, heartfelt book . . .Lewis writes with an addict's jumpy restlessness, staggering from hurt to hurt, from tensely jokey confession to confession, from twitchy spiritual discovery to discovery."; --USA Today said it was "Candid and inspirational." ; While the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes,
"Lewis” has narrative gifts few celebrity authors exhibit."
He has been featured, mentioned and has contributed to countless books and most recently, "I'm Dying Up Here," which chronicles the collective coming of age of the standup comedians who defined American humor during the past three decades: Letterman, Leno, Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis and Garry Shandling among others, by author William Knoedelseder.
He’s just completed filming “Squirrels To The Nuts”, a Peter Bogdanovich film due for release in 2014, starring Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots and Cybill Shepherd, among others. Lewis plays against type as the gruff father of the main character, who is a prostitute turned Broadway actress. Lewis’s first defining film role was his appearance in "Leaving Las Vegas," which set the stage and led to his first major dramatic role as the lead character, Jimmy Epstein, an addict fighting for his life in the indie film, "Drunks," along with a brilliant cast that includes Dianne Weist, Faye Dunaway and Amanda Plummer. Built around an AA meeting, he received rave reviews. He also starred in the multi-generationally beloved “Robin Hood men In Tights.”
With scores of diverse guest acting appearances in TV series and films, the closest to his heart was his four year run in ABC's critically acclaimed series "Anything But Love," co-starring with Jamie Lee Curtis, in "Anything but Love”. "Diary of a Young Comic," now considered a cult classic film, in which he had the lead role and co-wrote, first aired on NBC in the "Saturday Night Live" time slot at its highest ratings period. Late night TV viewers and media junkies in general are familiar with his frequent guest appearances. He may hold title to having the most late night appearances, chalking up well over 100 appearances with Dave, Jay, Conan, Jon, Stern, Ferguson and Maher.
Regarded by his peers as a 'comic's comic', Lewis' neuroses have become a part of our vernacular as in the now iconic, "I had a date from Hell!" He finally got his due when Yale's Book of Quotations attributed the now-common phrase, "the [blank] from hell" to Mr. Lewis in 2006. Richard is especially grateful for being sober for over 18 years.
In Richard’s own words --"I go on a long tour and make people happy that they're not me and go home."
Follow Richard on Twitter @TheRichardLewis