Comedians angry with Jerry Lewis' telethon end

A Labor Day ritual, The Muscular Dystrophy telethon goes on the air Sunday night.

However, for the first time in 45-years, Jerry Lewis will be a no show.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association says the so-called king of comedy is no longer its national chairman and will not appear on this year's broadcast.

CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports that, over the last half-century, no one raised more money for children with MD than the comic legend.

Jerry Lewis leaves MDA chairmanship behind
Jerry Lewis retiring from telethon after 45 years
Photos: Jerry Lewis

Yet Sunday night's MDA telethon ushers in new, younger hosts. That the 85-year-old, who's inspired a generation of comedians, is being pushed aside has the country's funny men angry.

"After all these years, you're telling me there's no presence, Jerry lewis has no presence on his own (show)?" asked David Letterman on air recently.

"If this is the way we're going culturally, then we should go all the way and just tell grandpa we don't need him for thanksgiving," said comedian Larry Miller.

At the famed Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, comedians upset at Jerry's ouster are planning their own Labor Day fundraiser as a tribute to the legend.

"In my 42 years in show business, I've seen a great deal of injustice, this ranks right up to the top," said Tom Dressen, comedian.

Jerry Lewis shot to fame as the manic goof ball to Dean Martin's straight man. Going solo, he made a string of movies like "The Nutty Professor."

But the role of a lifetime was the telethon. Every Labor Day since 1966, Lewis both performed and pleaded for donations, during marathon twenty-one hour telecasts.

The MDA says Lewis brought in about $2.5 billion.

"He basically just put his entire personality on display. To be told just thanks, good bye, is the ultimate in humiliation," said comedian Harry Schearer.

Shearer says he would have crafted a different ending to this script.

"I think (I would have had) a sort of home run lap where everybody in show business said a valedictory thanks and farewell and Jerry got to bask in that one more time," Schearer said.

CBS News spoke with Jerry Lewis, but when asked to comment, he declined. And so we are left with last year's signature song..."You'll never walk alone."