At age 69, Richard Lewis has never been busier. The veteran comedian is set to start filming a Nick Cassavetes heist caper alongside Peter Fonda and Andrew Dice Clay in February, reprise his role as Larry David’s neurotic best buddy on the ninth season of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and hit the road on his Tracks of My Fears stand-up tour, which stops at Laugh Boston Sept. 29-Oct. 1. We caught up with Lewis to talk shop before that five-show stand.
You’re a busy man—how’s things? I fell off my roof in March and fractured my wrist. Why was I on the roof? I was trying to dispel the myth that a Jew can’t look at a pipe. And it didn’t work. So in fact I put in a beautiful light that anyone can see. It’s as big as the Hollywood sign. It says, “Stay off the roof, you moron.” But yeah, I had to cancel six months of work, but now things are cool.
Why did Larry David decide to bring Curb back after a five-year hiatus? I don’t know. Look, we were literally born in the same hospital ward, three days apart. [Laughs] I was a preemie. So I met him in some way, even though I was only three days old. He was so annoying.
Really! I bet he was really whiny. Oh, he whined more than anything—and I was just concerned about getting bigger. So whiny. And he tried to kill me! Tried to hang me with an umbilical cord that was hanging off another baby. So he was just a bad guy. A bad baby. And then I never saw him again. Of course I was too small to hold a pen, but I wouldn’t have wanted to visit him anyway. But then I went to a sports camp and we [met again] and were absolutely arch rivals—and I had no idea until recently that we were born in the same hospital, we laughed at that—but anyway we went to the same camp and I was a pretty good athlete and so was he. Long story short we never saw each other again [after the sports camp], because we hated each other again. But then when I started comedy about a year and a half before him, he was a fan of mine … and [when I met him] I said, ‘Whoa, what a brain.’ And we became really best friends, suddenly.
So Curbed… We went out to dinner like two or three weeks ago, and it was all over the Internet, but he didn’t tell me. … I got there a little early because I like to pay the check when we go out; he’s done enough for me, God knows. He doesn’t say anything. We’re waiting for the valets to bring the cars, and he still hasn’t said anything. I was bursting; I was almost having a breakdown. So I said, “Larry, congratulations on going back to the show. People are so excited.” He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” So then I practically shouted, “Listen! Am I in it or not?!” It had been building for three hours. And he got angry! He said, “How dare you? Why would I go to dinner with you and tell you over a shrimp scampi that you’re not back?” So, yeah, I’m really jazzed about that. Filming starts in November, allegedly. I’ve been doing this for 48 years, and to still be doing all this—I’ve never felt better onstage.
Speaking of being onstage, do you still get nervous? Well, the more anxious I am, the better I am as a performer. That’s my sweet spot, anxiety. . [Laughs] The real reason I’m anxious is that for years, whether it was Vegas, Carnegie Hall—you name it, I played practically every venue I ever dreamt of—I used to bring huge notes on the stage. It took me weeks and weeks to get these long sheets of yellow legal pads, Scotch taped together. And it was all new material. …. But now I don’t use the pads anymore. I haven’t for over a decade. And I’ve never been better onstage, but what I have to do is hole up in hotels and pore over thousands of premises and then when I hear my name—‘Ladies and gentlemen, Richard Lewis’—I have absolutely no idea what’s going to stick or what I’ll remember. Plus I ad-lib about half the show now. … It’s much harder—I have no cheat sheet! But I really force myself to do as much new stuff as I can.