Long, long ago, in the year 2011, a documentary called Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis was released by filmmaker Gregg Barson. Included in the work were interviews with comedy legends like Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, and the late Richard Lewis. When Lewis earlier this year at the age of 76, it prompted Barson to revisit the original footage of Lewis’s interview. He soon discovered he had over an hour of footage, where Lewis discusses not only his relationship with Jerry Lewis (no, they are not related, but they do talk about the what if of that), but also the nature of comedy and his own process. Throughout the conversation, Lewis can’t help but break into his neurotic onstage persona, explaining his process of improvisation on stage thusly: “I don’t have an act. I am the act.” In a particularly haunting moment, Barson asks Lewis if he hopes to still be doing stand-up into his 80s. “I can’t even picture standing up at 84,” has answers, before calling the director a bastard for forcing him to imagine it.

“Richard was truly an expert on comedy and its history, which made for an incredible interview about the great Jerry Lewis,” Barton said in a press release, “and surprisingly, the interview is even more revealing about Richard Lewis.” Berson decided to release the full interview today in honor of what would’ve been Richard Lewis’s 77th birthday, with the blessing of his widow Joyce Lapinsky Lewis, who the press release notes “loved the video.” And just in case you aren’t already misty-eyed, here’s another bittersweet detail: This whole conversation takes place at Greenblatt’s Delicatessen in Hollywood, where Richard Lewis was a regular, and which closed in 2021 after 95 years in business.

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