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‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Boss on the Late Richard Lewis: “He Was Funny Every Minute He Was on Set”

Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Jeff Schaffer knows that Richard Lewis will be remembered for being funny. But he wants fans of the comedian and actor, who died last month at age 76, to also know one thing.

“The thing about Richard is that everyone knows how funny he was,” the executive producer told The Hollywood Reporter. “But I want people to know also that he was the sweetest, kindest man. Everyone loved him. He loved being on the show. He will be missed.”

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Schaffer and Curb‘s creator-star Larry David filmed with Lewis three weeks before he passed away. One result from the dual 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes was that the 12th and final season of the HBO improv comedy still had a few scenes to shoot when production resumed. Schaffer wouldn’t dare spoil what they were shooting, but Lewis was among those called back to film pickups.

“Three weeks to the day before he passed, we shot with him,” said Schaffer in a chat about this week’s episode. “He looked great. He was moving around way better than he was when we were shooting the rest of the season. He was just excited and it was great. It was a bit of a shock. I’d say his body may have betrayed him, but his wit never wavered the entire time.”

Lewis, who had been living with Parkinson’s disease, died suddenly after suffering a heart attack on Feb. 28. Schaffer said Lewis had also been on hand to promote the launch of the final season. “He couldn’t have been more excited. He looked great,” Schaffer said of promoting the show together in late January.

When Lewis shared his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2023, he announced that he was retiring from stand-up. He had stepped away from Curb in 2021 and appeared on only one season 11 episode. But he returned for the currently airing final season, going toe-to-toe with his lifelong friend David (they were born three days apart and crossed paths in pre-adulthood).

The third episode of the season saw the pair sparring, in character, about topics including their respective wills and aging sperm counts. Last week’s episode, the fifth in the season, saw Lewis trying out new stand-up material during AA meetings, to the delight of its anonymous members.

“That idea was in the script,” Schaffer shares of the AA storyline. “That it seemed like he was just getting up and doing his material in the AA meeting. In the original version of the script, Larry was sort of accusing him of doing that and he was denying it. And we were like, ‘oh, it’s way funnier if he just owns it.’ And once we made that flip, the scene came to life. Because they were both able to just riff on the joke.”

Later in the episode, Lewis betrays the anonymity of another recovering alcoholic when he shares what Larry’s girlfriend Irma (played by Tracey Ullman) shared in a meeting. Larry ends up using the information to force her to break up with him (Larry had been reluctantly staying in a relationship with Irma to not rock her new sobriety). Lewis gave up the information at the drop of a hat, after Larry threatened to take him out of his will.

“After we figured out the first AA scene, it just made sense to make him the worst (laughs) AA member ever,” says Schaffer of the Lewis arc. “And he loved playing it. He was like, ‘I may not be allowed back in there, but it’s worth it.'”

Schaffer added, “He said he wasn’t going to do standup again or tour anymore, obviously due to health reasons. But he never stopped coming up with jokes. He was funny every minute he was on set.”

Lewis loved his battles with David, said the writer-director, and those battles will appear again before Curb ends its run. Lewis, who was paid tribute in an opening title card before the March 3 episode, appears in both the upcoming eighth episode as well as the series finale.

When Curb wrapped, Lewis was one of the first to take to social media to pay tribute to the series, which he had been a part of for more than two decades, since it first launched in 2000.

“No one has seen the last of Richard Lewis,” says Schaffer.

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