Jerry Lewis retires from hosting MDA Telethon


Labor Day weekend will be very different. There will still be a Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon, but Jerry Lewis won’t be hosting. After 44 years as host, he’s retiring, but will appear at the very end of the telethon to sing his signature song.

“As a labor of love, I’ve hosted the annual Telethon since 1966, and I’ll be making my final appearance on the show this year by performing my signature song, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.  I’ll continue to serve MDA as its National Chairman – as I’ve done since the early 1950’s.  I’ll never desert MDA and my kids,” Lewis said in a statement.

Lewis, who turned 85 in March, has tallied some 900 hours of live television time raising money for MDA to fuel research and provide medical care to children – dubbed “Jerry’s kids” – and adults suffering from muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases.

MDA had previously announced that the annual telethon was being revamped in 2011, reducing the 21 and a half hours to six airing in primetime 6:00 pm to midnight in every time zone, live or taped with local inserts. MDA believes it will pick up more affiliates with the shorter show and raise more money. The “Love Network” included some 170 stations last year and the 2010 telethon raised $58.9 million.
“It’s time for an all new Telethon era. This year’s six hour prime-time Telethon on September 4 will be spectacular, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.  We’re so close to treatments that it’s absolutely vital for everyone to tune in and make a generous donation.  America has always found a way each year to give me that just one dollar more to help my kids,” said Lewis.

RBR-TVBR observation: You knew this day would come. Many Hollywood stars leave a legacy in film, but few even attempt to match the legacy that Jerry Lewis created by his humanitarian work for MDA. Labor Day will be different this year, but a new era will begin.