After 45 Years, Jerry Lewis Bows Out of MDA Telethon

May 16, 2011  •  Post A Comment

After 45 years, the host of one of U.S. TV’s longest-running special shows is calling it quits.

On Sept. 4, 2011, Jerry Lewis, 85, will appear one more time on the annual Muscular Dystrophy Assn. telethon to sing his trademark song, Rogers and Hammerstein’s "You’ll Never Walk Alone," reports our friend T.L. Stanley on the Los Angeles Times’ ShowTracker blog.

Stanley writes,  "Starting this September, the telethon will shrink to six hours, airing from 6 p.m. to midnight. There will still be a mix of entertainment, educational segments, sponsor shout-outs, pledges and local cutaways, but all in much shorter form than in years past. There will be four co-hosts: Nigel Lythgoe of ‘American Idol’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ ‘Entertainment Tonight’s’ Nancy O’Dell and Jann Carl, and ‘The Biggest Loser’s’ Alison Sweeney.

Stanley writes that reportedly Lewis "hadn’t been consulted before the fact about sweeping changes in the show."

She added that Lewis made no mention of any controversy about the changes, instead releasing a statement "saying, simply, ‘it’s time for an all new telethon era.’ "

The telethon still raises a significant amount of money for MDA–last year it brought in close to $59 million, the article notes.

According to the Associated Press, "More than $1 billion has been raised during Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons over the years, association spokesman Jim Brown said. And a national network of some 200 hospital-affiliated clinics has opened since Lewis became involved in the telethon. Lewis’ first live Labour Day weekend telethon in 1966 was broadcast by a single New York City television station. It raised more than $1 million in pledges."


  1. The Telethon under Jerry’s consistant drive has done much over these forty-five years.
    Like Memorial Day is the Indy 500, Labor Day is the Jerry Lewis, MDA Telethon…no, I’m not confusing water and oil, rather, I’m noting the significance of the bracketing of Summer in America for over four decades.
    I hope the change will evolve positively for the work of MDA.
    Thanks to Jerry, the long standing staff and great memories of Ed McMahan, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the thousands of other entertainers who lent their talents and personages to the cause.
    Rolling ever forward and upward….
    Peter Bright

  2. I have fond memories of Jerry Lewis and the Telethon. Memories of his many friends who are in the business stopping by with lots of laughter, stories and just plain innocent fun. I give financially also because it’s needed and that’s the point of the show. I cry every year when he sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone”; it’s so touching. – I volunteered as a teenager to assist locally. Jerry Lewis has given me many hours of great entertainment – I love his movies and I wish him the best. He loved the children and it showed and was confirmed from his long standing 45 years as host. GOD bless you Jerry.

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