Paul Rodriguez, Larry Miller, Tom Dreesen, Norm Crosby and others have joined in support of Lewis, the 85-year-old comedian who the MDA said is no longer its national chairman and will not appear on this year's telethon. The Tucson, Ariz.-based association announced earlier this week that the organization was parting ways with him after 45 years.
"If this is the way we're going, we should also tell grandpa we don't need him for Thanksgiving," joked Miller.
The funnymen told reporters gathered at The Laugh Factory comedy club Friday in Hollywood that they want the MDA to feature Lewis in some capacity on the upcoming telethon. At the very least, they said he deserves a proper send-off on the show he made famous. Rodriguez said Lewis should be brought back in a limo and "given the accolades that he deserves."
"He's not dead," said Rodriguez. "He's very much alive."
The comedians said they hadn't spoken with Lewis since the separation was announced, but Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said they supported Lewis "regardless of why he was dismissed." Dreesen speculated that the MDA told Lewis that he would be phased out of the telethon, and the group was fearful of what Lewis would say during the six-hour broadcast.
"There's no way they would give him the microphone for five minutes," said Dreesen.
MDA spokesman Jim Brown declined to say what prompted the decision. Lewis publicist Candi Cazau of Las Vegas also declined to comment. She said on Thursday the comedian was traveling outside his home state of Nevada. Lewis previously said in a statement issued through the association in May that he would make his final appearance on the Sept. 4 telethon.
Preparations for the 46th annual telethon are under way as planned at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, where the event will be held, said casino spokesman Tom Mikovits. He said the MDA telethon, which has been broadcast from the South Point since 2006, makes arrangement with the event venue on a year-to-year basis.