Comic Richard Lewis dies at 76. What we know about his cause of death, health history

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Comic Richard Lewis died in his Los Angeles home Feb. 27 after suffering a heart attack, his publicist Jeff Abraham confirmed in a statement.

The 76-year-old comedian was also known for his role on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and he currently appears in the final season of the HBO series. In a recent episode, Lewis’s character discussed amending his will with Larry David.

Following the news of Lewis’s death, David released a statement that said, “Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me. He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I’ll never forgive him.”

Lewis battled multiple health issues over the years. In April 2023, he announced in a touching video that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Less than two weeks before his death, he spoke more about the diagnosis and his career in an interview with Vanity Fair published on Feb. 18.

Lewis said that his last comedy tour was about five years ago and that he didn’t plan to go on the road again.

“On my last tour, I knew it was my last,” he shared. “It was the best I’ve ever been onstage. I said, ‘This is it. Fifty years. I’m exhausted.’ I did about six cities. People showed me how much they care about my work. And I would never go on again.”

He continued, “Not to mention, my body’s been beaten up by four surgeries. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a couple of years ago.”

Lewis said he visited a physical therapist three times a week.

“It’s another progressive disease that I’m fighting, and I’ll do the best I can,” he said.

He revealed that he told David and members of the cast and crew about his diagnosis before he publicly shared the information. He said the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” team made sure he had extra help on set.

Lewis also shared why he wanted to reveal his diagnosis to the world.

“I decided that I couldn’t stay in the closet with this,” he explained to Vanity Fair. “And I thought for what it’s worth, I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic in recovery almost 30 years. That helped some people. Maybe I could go public on this and they’ll say, ‘Gee, I didn’t know Lewis had this!’ And maybe it’ll give them some encouragement.”

He said he didn’t want his health problems to define him. Instead, he wanted to turn his struggles into a joke.

“To be a drug addict and an alcoholic with Parkinson’s, I’m teed up to be as funny as I possibly can to get over that. I think I can do it. To get laughs with that would be really rewarding for me and really inspiring for other people,” he told Vanity Fair.

Read on to learn what Lewis said about his health struggles throughout the years.

He nearly died from alcoholism in 1994

Lewis reflected on a near-death experience and his sobriety in an encouraging message posted to X in August 2021.

“August 3, 1994 I thought that I was near death from alcoholism,” he tweeted.

Lewis continued, “Early the next day I was rushed to the ER and turned my life around a day, sometimes a minute at a time. If you’re struggling you can get help. I did.”

He said he celebrated 27 years of sobriety on August 4, 2021.

He underwent multiple surgeries

During an interview with The Washington Post in March 2020, Lewis was recovering from recent surgeries on his back and rotator cuff.

Photos from the article showed Lewis posing with his arm in a sling.

The publication also reported that Lewis was a recovering addict and had an eating disorder.

When the comic spoke about his Parkinson’s diagnosis last year, he also reflected on the surgeries, revealing that he had two more for a total of four.

He had the back and shoulder surgeries first, he said, before needing to return to the hospital for shoulder replacement surgery and a hip replacement.

He publicly revealed his Parkinson’s diagnosis in August 2023

Lewis decided to share his Parkinson’s diagnosis in a tearful video uploaded to X last year. At the time, he said he had recently finished shooting the 12th, and last, season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

“I’m so grateful to be a part of that show, but you know the last three and a half years I’ve had sort of a rocky time,” he began.

He mentioned that fans hadn’t seen him for quite some time and he had stopped touring.

“Here’s really what happened. Three and half years ago, I was in the middle of a tour, and then I finally ended it with a show. I said, ‘You know, I’m at the top of my game. After 15 years, almost, I’m going to just call it quits,’ and I felt great about that,” he explained.

But then his health took a turn. He said he had four surgeries “back to back.”

In 2021, he noticed he was walking “stiffly.”

“I went to a neurologist, and they gave me a brain scan. And I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and that was about two years ago,” he said.

Despite the diagnosis, he maintained a positive mindset, “But luckily I got it late in life, and they say you progress very slowly, if at all. And I’m on the right meds, so I’m cool.”

He said he wanted to provide his fans with the health update and let them know he had retired from stand-up but would continue to write and act.

Lewis said he loved his wife, Joyce Lapinsky, and all his friends and fans for supporting him.

During his final Vanity Fair interview earlier this month, he still had an optimistic attitude.

He said he went out to dinner with David and one of his daughters. Lewis explained that he went to use the bathroom and struggled to walk back to the table. Eventually, he alerted a busboy to get Lapinsky who helped him back to the table.

Two months later, the longtime friends and co-stars decided to go out to eat again. Although Lewis said he wasn’t looking forward to going out, he realized he needed to change his outlook.

“That’s not what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to go fight this disease, because the disease wants you to give up,” he said. “It wants you to get lazy, not exercise, not go out, to lie in bed, put on the television, try to read.”

He added, “It’s out to get you unless you fight back.”

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