Can a comedian who built an entire career on mining the vicissitudes of unhappiness find, well, happiness? That finest of whiners, Richard Lewis, might not cop to outright bliss, but he will admit that life is good these days. Since kicking drugs and alcohol eight years ago, the man in black has written a recovery memoir (”The Other Great Depression”), scored a regular gig on HBO’s ”Curb Your Enthusiasm” (season three premieres later this year), and will begin appearing as a rabbi on, of all shows, the WB’s ”7th Heaven” beginning Feb. 25. EW.com talked to the hyperkinetic Lewis, 54, about making road movies with Larry David, wearing white tube socks, and why he despises himself more than ever.
Here’s the deal. I just quit therapy, I’m doing two TV shows, my paperback’s coming out, I’m doing talk shows and concerts all in the same week, and today is the fourth anniversary of a relationship I’m in, so I’m not going to have a complete body rest. But it’s all good stuff.
Not only are you the last person we’d expect to see on ”7th Heaven,” you don’t seem like the go-to guy to play a rabbi.
I’m proud of being a Jew, but for the last 20 years, I’d been more spiritual than observant. Getting sober renewed my interest, so when the show called me I almost needed a horah intervention, you know? It’s just so well-written and deals with such important issues. Plus I could have some fun with the part because Rabbi Glass is a reform rabbi and sort of flamboyant, so I dressed somewhere between Moses and Don Ho. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Rabbi Glass is totally possessive of his daughter, who’s dating Matt Camden [Barry Watson]. So when Matt starts thinking about marrying her, let’s just say it’s the Hatfields and McCoys.
How is it working with that other great crank, Larry David, on ”Curb”? Do you bug each other off-screen as much as on?
Larry and I went to the same sports camp when we were 12 and hated each other. Fast forward 13 years, and we became friends while waiting to go on at the Improv in New York. We’re hanging out in a bar after our sets one night, and I say to him, ”You know something? You’re a great friend, but I hate you and I don’t know why.” So we retraced our steps all the way back to Camp All-American and realized how we knew each other and almost came to blows. And that energy still works for us. I love aggravating him on ”Curb” because he’s the funniest guy I’ve ever aggravated. I think we’re really like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in how we play off of one another.