Richard Lewis' neurotic bits aren't just a persona. The comic, who once cracked that he was raised by wolves, is hilariously unbalanced. Before performing Friday and Saturday at Helium, he asked that I not review his show. No performer has ever made such a request of me - but who else is like the idiosyncratic Lewis?
However, the quirky humorist changed his tune and said that he couldn't stop me. And he had nothing to worry about during Saturday night's late show, the last of four sold-out shows at Helium.
Lewis, 68, killed it during a 90-minute set in which he cracked about his alcohol and drug addiction, politics and the world of entertainment. The self-described bottomless pit of dysfunction detailed what it was like to perform after his initial encounter with cocaine: "After I had some blow, I did 30 minutes of material in 17 seconds. It was the greatest show I ever did."
He detailed what it was like sitting behind Prince during a flight to Minneapolis. "I said something to Prince, and his 5,000-pound security guard's head spun around so quickly that it was like The Exorcist." The caretaker told Lewis not to address the purple one by name. "Don't ever say his name to him," the bodyguard warned; he couldn't even send a message to Prince, who was five feet away. "Prince doesn't accept notes," the guard said.
Lewis doesn't care whom he offends. You never know what he's going to say, and sometimes he doesn't either. "Too bad you missed the early show," he told me. "About 30 minutes of it was ad-libbed."
Larry David's foil throughout his unscripted gem Curb Your Enthusiasm can make anything funny. He riffed about his green hotel in Philadelphia, the lack of towels, and how he spent $60 for a delivery of a reuben to his room. He also gave props to the late, great David Brenner, nailing how underrated the West Philly-born comic was, despite his incredible success in the '70s and '80s.
Lewis may be old school, but he performed before an audience that ranged from late teen to deep in retirement. Some might think his focus on his anxieties would be tired after all these years, but it's still fresh because the material is new. He hit with relatable material such as how he can't argue with his wife - "I'm 0 for 3,000 in fights with her."
Lewis handled the Helium crowd like the pro he is. No surprise - he's been slaying audiences for nearly a half a century.