Comedian Jerry Lewis died Sunday morning at the age of 91 at his home in Las Vegas.
Publicist Candi Cazau says Lewis passed away Sunday morning of natural causes in Las Vegas, with his family by his side
He began his career as a 5-year-old in his parents vaudeville act, but didn’t become a star until he teamed up with iconic entertainer Dean Martin at the tender age of 20.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Martin and Lewis became stars as the iconic singer would play straight man to Lewis’ zany antics in clubs across the continent.
The pair featured in over a dozen films together, but as Lewis’ star began to shine brighter, tensions rose. The pair suffered an acrimonious breakup in 1956.
After becoming a solo act, Lewis continued to star in such feature classics as the Nutty Professor and The Bellboy.
His annual Labour Day Weekend telethons to raise funds for muscular dystrophy, which were held from 1966 until 2010, were as legendary as the man himself.
His fundraising efforts won him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Oscar telecast, an honour he said “touches my heart and the very depth of my soul.”
WATCH: Comedic legend, Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91. Lewis and Dean Martin were the hottest comedy team going in the 1950’s, but as Ross Lord reports, he’ll be remembered for much more than simply telling jokes.
But the telethon was also criticized for being mawkish and exploitative of children, known as “Jerry’s Kids.” A 1960s muscular dystrophy poster boy, Mike Ervin, later made a documentary called “The Kids Are All Alright,” in which he alleged that Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association had treated him and others as objects of pity rather than real people.
“He and his telethon symbolize an antiquated and destructive 1950s charity mentality,” Ervin wrote in 2009.
Lewis responded, “You don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!”
Lewis retired from making movies in 1995, but returned as star of the 2016 drama Max Rose.
Tributes to the legendary comedic actor poured in on social media almost immediately after the announcement of his death.
— With files from Associated Press
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