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Creator / Martin and Lewis

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Dean Martin (left) and Jerry Lewis (right)

Dean Martinnote  (June 7, 1917 — December 25, 1995) and Jerry Lewisnote  (March 16, 1926 – August 20, 2017) were a mid 20th century comedy Double Act. They met in 1945 and officially teamed up on July 25, 1946; the team lasted ten years to the day.

Although accounts differ on how exactly their partnership began, it's generally accepted that Martin and Lewis were middling night club acts who weren't going anywhere fast. However, when they took to the stage together, their natural chemistry and comedic talent electrified audiences. Both also had an affinity for improv so their act rarely stuck to a prepared script, which resonated with audiences that were used to more well-rehearsed acts.

They performed in nightclubs, on radio, and later television and filmsnote . They were very popular as hosts of the Variety Show The Colgate Comedy Hour.


At the height of their fame, they were one of the hottest acts in America and performed to sell-out crowds wherever they went. Audiences lapped up their antics and would crowd around trying to meet them after performances, making it impossible to clear out venues. Because of this, the two got into the habit of going to an upstairs window and throwing out autographed cards.

The team eventually broke up as the two began tiring of their established formula in differing ways. Lewis wanted to become more experimental to try and play comedy for pathos. He also began hogging the spotlight. Martin, on the other hand, was growing frustrated with playing blandly charming leads and wanted to branch out into meatier dramatic roles. With the two realizing they couldn't work together anymore, their partnership was dissolved, and both launched very successful careers as solo acts.


The two occasionally crossed paths afterwards and showed brief flashes of the famous chemistry they'd shared as partners. But they would only truly begin reconciling in 1976 when Frank Sinatra, their mutual friend, arranged a televised reunion. Although the two never performed publicly again, the men reconciled in private and spoke regularly until Martin passed away in 1995.

Their partnership was dramatized in Martin and Lewis, a TV film starring Jeremy Northam as Dean and Sean Hayes as Jerry.

Lewis would detail his own memories of their partnership in Dean and Me: a Love Story.

A list of their films:

  • My Friend Irma (1949)
  • My Friend Irma Goes West (1950)
  • At War With the Army (1950)
  • That's My Boy (1951)
  • The Stooge (1951)
  • Sailor Beware (1951)
  • Jumping Jacks (1952)
  • Road to Bali (1952) (Cameo)
  • Scared Stiff (1952)
  • The Caddy (1953)
  • Money From Home (1953)
  • 3 Ring Circus (1954)
  • Living It Up (1954)
  • You're Never Too Young (1955)
  • Artists and Models (1955)
  • Pardners (1956)
  • Hollywood or Bust (1956)

Tropes associated with Martin and Lewis:

  • Accidental Kiss: A couple near-misses in The Stooge and Scared Stiff as well as a memorable one in the "500 Club" episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour.
  • Alliterative Name: In That's My Boy Martin and Lewis played Bill Baker and "Junior" Jackson, and in Scared Stiff Jerry played Myron Mertz.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Their characters are pretty much always this and/or Ambiguously Gay.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Almost every Lewis character, or even any knockoff character based on one of Lewis's characters, will come off as this.note  Additionally, this makes many of his characters Jewish and Nerdy and/or a Nice Jewish Boy.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: The boys had no problem with kissing each other on the lips in their live shows, but the few times Lewis kisses Martin in their movies The Caddy and Artists and Models they're all on his cheek.
  • As Himself: Sometimes they played completely fictional characters and sometimes they were this, especially on The Colgate Comedy Hour. They also do this at the end of The Caddy.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Martin was rather protective of Lewis during their years as a team, especially in their early years when Lewis was barely out of his teens and had a rather troubled past. On one occasion, sitting at a bar, he threw an anti-Semitic mobster's mook across it and into the shelf of glasses behind: the mook had demanded to know of Martin what he was doing teaming up with a Jew.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: The duo tried to embody this trope (and sometimes Little Guy, Big Buddy) with Martin as the big guy and Lewis as the little guy. However, they were the same height - 6'1/2" - so Martin wore lifts and Lewis cut the heels off his shoes and adopted a crouched posture.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Frequently made jokes at the expanse of the namesake sponsor on The Colgate Comedy Hour.
  • Borscht Belt: Lewis performed there in his childhood alongside his parents, and the style influenced his comedy.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jerry Lewis typically assumed this role.
  • The Cameo: The duo appear in a brief but memorable one in Road to Bali as part of a "comedy trade" with them and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. In return, Hope and Crosby make a cameo in their film Scared Stiff.
  • Camera Screw: On several occasions on The Colgate Comedy Hour, Jerry Lewis would attempt to speak directly to the camera, except the active camera would switch on him every three seconds, much to his annoyance. ("Which camera is on?")
  • The Cast Show Off: With Martin's singing.
  • The Charmer: Dean was completely at ease with himself and this gave him an air of confidence that people gravitated towards.
  • Catchphrase: "I like it! I like it!"
  • Clip Show: Done with the January 25, 1953 edition of The Colgate Comedy Hour (see below).
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Lewis' characters were often these.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: A significant part of their act.
  • Corpsing: Occurred frequently in their live shows.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Played with in a Colgate Comedy Hour sketch. Martin, playing a disobedient prince, is told he can't eat his dinner, but since it's against the law for anyone to harm the prince, his "whipping boy", played by Lewis, has to go hungry instead.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Happened to the boys often. One example is in a Colgate Comedy Hour sketch where Lewis introduces his girl to Martin, only for the two to embrace each other, completely ignoring Lewis and his protests ("Don't kiss her!").
  • Double Act: At the height of their partnership they were practically inseperable and one of the biggest comedy acts in the United States. Unusually for a double act, however, they were never actually credited as "Martin and Lewis" but always by their full names. This is what allowed both to go onto become successful solo acts as audiences subconsciously considered them to be two separate entities.
  • Downer Ending: Seen in the friendship club sketch of The Colgate Comedy Hour. Supposably it was not received well by audiences.
  • Dreadful Musicians: Usually seen with Lewis, but occasionally averted when he sings straight.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Jerry's old haircut, which was occasionally joked about in their acts.
  • Gender Flip: Two of their films were adapted from screwball comedies produced decades earlier — Nothing Sacred (remade as Living It Up) and The Major and the Minor (remade as You're Never Too Young) — with Lewis filling Carole Lombard and Ginger Rogers' respective roles.
  • Genius Ditz: Lewis' characters were sometimes this.
    • In The Stooge he plays Ted Rogers, Bill Miller's accident-prone comedic parter who is completely unaware that he is the real reason the act is a success.
    • In The Caddy he plays Harvey Miller, who is amazing at playing and teaching golf despite being clumsy and afraid of crowds.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Played straight with Martin in that he often used Italian words and phrases. Averted in that he really did speak Italian.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The characters they portrayed, more often than not, and the actors themselves (until their break up).
  • Improv: An essential part of their live shows, which endeared them to audiences more used to heavily-rehearsed routines.
  • In-Series Nickname: Martin as Herman "Honey Talk" Nelson in Money from Home.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Lewis' characters sometimes fit this trope.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Lewis in several of their sketches and films, most notably in At War With the Army, The Stooge, Scared Stiff, and Money From Home.
  • Italians Talk with Hands: Frequently played for laughs with Martin, especially in live shows.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Some of Martin's characters were this.
  • The Klutz: A big part of Lewis' usual screen persona.
  • Large Ham: Lewis.
  • Latin Lover: Most of Martin's characters. Without the dancing, typically.
  • Lethally Stupid: Almost all the characters Lewis portrayed, though he managed to make them likable.
  • Lover and Beloved: They sometimes ended up playing characters with this dynamic.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Martin loved to do this purposefully with Lewis' last name. His favorite variations were Lucas, Loomis, Lousy and Looseleaf.
  • Manchild: With Lewis being not quite the Trope Codifier, but damn close.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Used with Lewis' character in Scared Stiff.
  • Medium Awareness: Especially on The Colgate Comedy Hour. Martin and Lewis, especially Lewis, would often bring attention to the technicians that told them, for instance, that they had five minutes or two minutes left on the show by reading out the cue cards or mimicking their hand signals. At least once, they even dragged the technician onto the stage for the benefit of the audience.
  • Mirror Routine: Used in the Dean Only Has Eyes For Jerry sketch. Cue Corpsing and Contagious Laughter.
  • Motionless Makeover: Done on The Colgate Comedy Hour. A Martin and Lewis episode featured their musical director Dick Stabile on a sax solo performance of "The Man I Love". During his performance, the comic duo subjects him to one of these; they put a bowler hat on his head, hang an umbrella on his arm, undo his bowtie, hike up his pants and stick an handkerchief in his ear. Stabile, meanwhile, keeps on playing without missing a beat. It was probably done out of revenge, since Stabile doing a number was his way of settling an argument over who would do the next number.
  • The Musical: Several of their films.
  • Name and Name: Though fans often referred to them as Martin and Lewis, they almost always went by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in official billing.
  • Nice Guy: Martin was polite and charming as well as fiercely protective of those he cared about. He couldn't bear to punish his children even when they had clearly misbehaved. One of his sons recalled how they'd once simply sat in Dean's den to make it seem to Jeanne, Dean's second wife, as if Dean was giving the boy a stern talking to.
  • No Name Given: Lewis as Seymour in My Friend Irma and My Friend Irma Goes West.
  • Oh God, with the Verbing!: Jerry Lewis is the Trope Maker.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Martin as Herman "Honey Talk" Nelson in Money from Home.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In The Stooge when Lewis' character is talking to Martin's about his wife leaving he is speaking in his own legitimate voice rather than his character voice.
  • Outdated Name: A lot of Lewis' characters have these.
  • The Pratfall: Lewis did a lot on their live shows.
  • Queer People Are Funny: A lot of their humor revolved around this. On the other hand, they may have just been trying to get it past the Moral Guardians (especially given how much of their content actually was cut for being too gay).
  • Repetitive Name: Lewis' characters sometimes had these, for example "Myron Myron Mertz", "Marvin Marvin Mertz", and "Morty Morty Morty Morton".
  • Ridiculously Long Phone Number: In a library sketch on The Colgate Comedy Hour, Jerry Lewis tries to call his friend Herbie so he can help him retrieve his lost library card:
    Jerry: Hey, operator, would you please be good enough to give me Academy 72467... 24771... 329984... 721111111111—(Dean hits him on the head)—8239... 72665444444—(Dean hits him again)—293... 333336! (just before Dean hits him yet again) 29?
    Operator: Sorry, this number has been changed to Academy 31658473657895468—aack! (Dean rolls up the phone line on itself, "strangling" her)
  • Rule of Funny: Very often the only rule there was.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Jerry came up with the idea for the two of them to always perform in stylish matching outfits to distinguish themselves from double acts where the straight man and funny man dressed differently to reflect their comic personae.
  • The Show Must Go On: The January 25, 1953, edition of The Colgate Comedy Hour ended up being a clip show due to Lewis recuperating from a knee injury he suffered when falling off a scooter — he did the entire show sitting down.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Used sometimes in their movies and frequently in their sketches.
    Dean: You've gotta be suave.
    Jerry: I gotta be a slob?
  • Stage Names: Both used them. Martin first used the name "Dino Martini," then, at his bandleader's suggestion, Dean Martin. Lewis went by "Joey Lewis" but soon changed it to Jerry Lewis to avoid confusion with comedian Joe E. Lewis and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
  • Straight Man: Martin.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Martin and Lewis, respectively.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Exaggerated in a sketch where Martin and his girl babysit Lewis' baby, who is also played by him and, at the end of the sketch, Jerry Lewis lookalike Sammy Petrillo.
  • The Trickster: The episodes of The Colgate Comedy Hour Martin and Lewis hosted often opened with sketches of the comedy team disrupting gatherings of members of polite society such as wedding receptions, dog shows, PTA meetings, company conventions, etc. These usually featured Lewis as the disruptive force with Martin as the Kid with the Leash.
  • Variety Show: The duo was one of the rotating hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: They sometimes played these. If only one was vitriolic it was usually Martin.
  • Work Off the Debt: In My Friend Irma Martin's character has to sing for their supper, with Lewis' character soon joining him.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Lewis.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: Shown with the song When You Pretend in Artists and Models.