September 04, 2002
The Jerry Lewis telethon

Mark Evanier has a good take on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon:

Years ago, I got into a friendly argument with a lovely gent named Artie Forrest, who is one of the all-time great TV directors. Artie was then handling Jerry's telethon and was defending it to just about everyone he met. They were all saying it was tasteless; that it had less to do with helping sick children than sick show biz careers; that Jerry was going to give himself a muscular ailment from patting himself on the back. I told Artie that I thought it would be possible to raise even more money each year without all that ego-massage. "Perhaps," I said, "If the telethon weren't so tacky, bigger stars would appear and larger sums would be collected."

Artie didn't disagree. But he said something that I thought was very true and very realistic. He said, approximately, "Yeah, but Jerry raises a helluva lot of money doing it his way, and nobody else is doing anything. You can talk all you want about other ways it might be done, and you might be right. But, in the meantime, he's buying research and wheelchairs and getting results."

The more I think about it, the more I think Artie was right. When it comes to something like this, results matter.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 04, 2002 to TV and movies

My wife had the perfect observation on this year's telethon after watching about 10 minutes of it. She said "With all the money Jerry Lewis has raised over the years (Lewis' own accounting is somewhat over a BILLION dollars!), shouldn't that have been enough by now to have developed a cure?" Years ago, I saw a documentary on several "fund raisers" and the Jerry Lewis Telethon was one of the LOWEST in the ratings of the organization getting the actual contributions. At the time, MDA ONLY received 9 cents of every dollar raised! What most people don't realize is that all the "stars" that make an "appearance" on the telethon are actually paid!

Posted by: Robin Edwards on September 2, 2003 12:49 PM

I used to really believe that MDA was doing a lot of good with these telethons. I even worked on some as a young adult. But in recent years, I became convinced that most of the money raised does NOT go to patient care and equipment. (especially after being friends with a family who lost both their sons to the disease and the parents telling me that they never got much support from the local MDA clinic.) Besides, every year, Lewis & company keep saying that "this will be the last telethon they'll ever have to do." That "pitch" gets tired very rapidly. I finally have gotten tired of Jerry Lewis patting himself on the back, along with his Hollywood cronies, whose careers he is propping up by inviting them to perform. (And I always suspected they got paid, contrary to the disclaimers in the credits.)

Also, I really have to wonder what secrets Lewis is keeping, because he has never revealed WHY he picked muscular dystrophy as his charitable cause back in the early 50s. He keeps saying the reason will NEVER be revealed as long as he's alive. One has to wonder about hidden agendas here.

With all the monies that have been raised over the years, why ISN'T there a cure by now? Are MDA's books being "cooked" to make them look good?

Hey, just my opinion.

Posted by: Carol Weiss on September 6, 2004 10:52 PM

If 1 billion dollars was all that was needed to cure a major disease, all diseases would be cured, don't you think? What an insane thought, that money alone can find a cure. Every major drug company that has a market cap of over one billion dollars would be able to find any cure they wanted. And I don't remember Jerry Lewis ever saying this telethon would be the last. He always says he hopes that each telethon would be the last. Big difference! And as far as MDA spending only 9 cents on the dollar. Their books are wide open. Please check it out. Only 7.2% goes to administration, 16.3% to fundraising, and 76.5% to actual programs. That's right, over 3/4 of the money raised goes to actual programs. Folks, please get your facts straight before you bash a charity. ( source of stats) Finally, kudos to Jerry Lewis for battling major health issues and still dedicate so much time to MDA. Some of the stars he enlists may have lost some lustre, however he is still a major force in raising money and awareness to fight these diseases. I for one, appreciate his efforts.

Posted by: John Randall on September 7, 2004 4:12 PM

How much money does Lewsi make for doing his telethon, year after year. This is a year long project and I don not believe he dose this for abslutely nothing. Does anybody know?

Posted by: Wes Grayson on January 4, 2005 10:43 PM

Check your facts! Call the BBB - get copies of the Tax documents submitted every year by the MDA. MDA's books are open and available for review. Jerry doesn't get a penny for what he does. The corporate sponsors donate flights for the children when they need to travel and for Mr. Lewis and the MDA board of directors when it goes on business travel. Go to mda's site and look @ the tax returns.

You can see where every penny goes. Yes some of the board makes $$. If you worked 358 days a year for 50 years of your life, you'd expect to be making a living too. The facts stand. MDA has done more to cover the patients, give to research, and maintain itself afloat throughout the last 58 years than any other charity. Can other charities say that? No - their telethons and big requests for donations are all gone. They weren't accountable properly.

With MDA every penny goes to research, patient care, wheelchairs, doctors and summer camp for some kids who can barely move their heads and hands. Don't you think that after all this time, if Lewis was getting paid by this charity that the Firefighters, and Congress which donated $100 million dollars this past year for special trials to find unique cures for Duchenne Dystrophy would've done something about it?

Think folks, think... There is good in this world - it's good to investigate and get your facts right.

Posted by: Joseph Castro on March 3, 2005 7:29 PM

It's pathetic how the hate mongers have tried for years to discredit Jerry Lewis and the MDA.

One ignorant person has said "'With all the money Jerry Lewis has raised over the years (Lewis' own accounting is somewhat over a BILLION dollars!), shouldn't that have been enough by now to have developed a cure?'"

Well, with all the money raised for cancer, heart disease, lukemia, shouldn't that have been enough by now to have developed a cure?

What this ignorant person forgets are the thousands of wheelchairs MDA provides FREE OF CHARGE to those it serves.

Without Jerry Lewis, there wouldn't BE a Muscular Dystrophy Association. There wouldn't be a thing called Plasmapheresis.

Oh did that ignorant person who whined that there was no cure know that MDA research funded Plasmapheresis? Did they know about Marlena Sharp, Maria Quintana, and Victor Alt who have been CURED of their forms of muscular dystrophy?

Probably not. These Johnny-come-lately hatemongers don't know the good MDA has done. They only listen to the voices of ingrates, that's about it.

Posted by: Bill on July 17, 2005 1:17 PM

Hi, let me tell you that MDA doesn't receive 9 cents out of every dollar it gets. MDA uses 76.4 cents for services, clinics, and research. MDA is constantly ranked by Money magazine as one of the best managed non-profits. You need to check your info people. MDA and Jerry Lewis have never paid any of the stars to come on the Telethon, everyone , including Jerry Lewis himself is a volunteer. And you want a cure? So does MDA! MDA has spent the last 50 years, figuring out what is causing kids and adults to start losing strength in their muscles. Thanks to MDA research, they have found the genetic cause of all 43 diseases they cover, and the families they cover are grateful. MDA research is responsible for the first gene beign coded, tons of research on body building and strengthening. MDA is the number one funder of reaserch for ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Get your facts straight people and write a check to MDA to counter balance the negative words you have spread.

Posted by: Tami on September 19, 2005 6:48 PM


It's always the caregiver who receives the abuse, it's always the helper who is persecuted; no good deed goes unpunished, you know the drill.
Jerry Lewis' life is unequalled, unparalleled by any other person in history. Packing theatres all over the world with family entertainment, as an ambassador of goodwill, and raising billions for people with disabilities puts him in a category of ONE. No other figure in political or religious history has ever contributed as much.
This drives many to want to put him down so that they can justify their own un-earned egos in their small, limited lives. They must live in denial of his staggering, towering achievements that have provided joy and hope to the world, just so they can live with themselves.
Yes, Jerry Lewis, like most superstars, had no education and came from a poor family, and as a result can be rather bombastic and crude in real life. This should never be over-reacted to by thin-skinned ingrates, but it is, when after all, it's the public who is blunt and rude and coarse itself when it comes to entertainers, they have to take it all the time. Lewis deserves attacks the least, yet is the most maligned person in show business, and you wonder why he can be so defensive...
He certainly made my childhood a happier one, for that I will be eternally grateful.

- Keith Singleton

Posted by: Keith on January 16, 2006 2:47 PM

The thing on the Jerry Lewis Telethon scam is this:

You have two kinds of money: quick cash (mostly in the syndicated malls, owned by the NCS (National Crime Syndicate) and the big checks by major corporations.

The cash in the mall is impossible to really account for.

Therefore, some Iacocca or Gates type gives Jerry a check for 2,000,000, of which he would only receive 40 % after taxes, and Jerry gives him back 1,000,000 in the mall cash.

The end result?

1. Jerry has a good check for 2,000,000 that he only paid 1,000,000 for.

2. The Corporate bigwig has 1,000,000, where he would have had only 800,000, not to mention some great advertising and PR.

3. The corporate bigwig has a tax deduction for 2,000,000

4. We pick up the tab

5. Not one kid has ever been cured.

6. Ever know anyone who got anything free from MDA?

Conclusion: You all deserve it for beleiving in such a phony, unctuous, mafia-affiliated-vegas cheeseball like Lewis.

Posted by: Joe Smith on March 4, 2006 8:27 PM

I am at this site as a result of a discussion I had with my roommate last night about Jerry Lewis' involvement in MDA. I've found a bit of conflicting information. But I still feel as I did last night that even if Jerry Lewis' efforts only result in 9% going to MDA, that is better than 9% of 0. If you really feel that more should go to MDA, then work and give 9% or more of your income to them! We complain but we don't do anything.

Posted by: Latisha S Strong on May 8, 2006 10:59 AM

For the person who asks if anyone has ever been given something from MDA the answer is yes. My daughter died when she was seven months old from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. If she would have lived long enough she would have received a much needed wheel chair from them. They were also going to help us with the equipment to be able to load the chair into our vehicles. I also knew someone whose daughter died from the same disease as my daughter. MDA helped her with home hospice and medical equipment. Where did you get your information? Obviously you didn't look too far to answer your own questions because I know there are many people out there who have been helped by the MDA. Unfortunately there isn't a cure yet for MD but they are a lot closer now than they were 13 years ago when my daughter died. A large part of that is due to the money and people associated with the MDA. Thankfully the opinions of those who are hateful and bitter don't reflect on the people who give their time and money for helping others with this awful disease. For anyone who has watched their child slowly die from this disease, only you can possibly understand the small amount of comfort you receive when you hear that they are one step further to a cure.

Posted by: Camille on June 14, 2006 2:41 AM

Get your info straight nd look at the awards and recognition given to Jerry for his work and then make an educated evaluation of this persons contributions to the world.

...."Thank you Jerry Lewis for all you have done"

Posted by: GREG on August 8, 2006 8:46 PM

Its disgusting how you have attempted to attack someone who does so much for so many while receiving nothing in the process.

Do you things for others? Do you go out of your way to raise money for people less fortunate than you for one reason or another?

Where would we be if Lewis had never started his Telethons?



And in terms of getting $$ and keeping it, you really need to start doing your homework - this is 2006. The MDA has been in business over 55 years. They've been scrutinized by every agency possible. Every penny is put into use - whether its in research, or patient care or fundraising.

Your priorities are so messed up that they show how disgusting your train of thought is. There's still a lot of good in this world. In the middle of all the attacks, and the natural disasters, and the sick perverted people - Thank God for someone like Jerry Lewis who regardless of his health, puts on a show to benefit others and NOT his pocket.

Beyond that, you can't even think of what effect your careless words have on others who suffer that decease. Have you witnessed Jerry stealing from the MDA? What proof do you have what you say? NONE!

You are so blindsided by the sick events in this world that can't see the good that one man can do for many that may never know him.



Posted by: Harry Matthews on August 24, 2006 6:03 PM