The MDA Labor Day Telethon 2011 raised $61.5 million in six hours on the holiday weekend without Jerry Lewis, its host for the last 45 years.
The annual MDA show’s goal is to raise awareness for muscular dystrophy, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and related diseases and raise money to fund research for cures.
Jerry Lewis has been hosting MDA Telethon since 1966, the annual event being even previously named the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.
Jerry Lewis claims that his efforts, dating back to the 1950s, have raised over $2.6 billion for the muscular dystrophy cause.
In May 2011 press, the MDA announced that Jerry Lewis will retire from hosting the telethon by making a final appearance and performing his signature song You’ll Never Walk Alone.
On August 3, a MDA press release announced that Jerry Lewis has “competed his run as its national chairman” and “will not be appearing on the Telethon.”
Both Jerry Lewis and the MDA made no comment on what changed between May and August.
On July 29, Entertainment Weekly reported that Jerry Lewis slammed the reality TV industry.
“The kids who’re on American Idol, they’re all McDonalds wipe outs…The industry have destroyed itself,” Jerry Lewis said.
Ironically, the hosts of the 2011 MDA Telethon included Nigel Lythgoe from American Idol, Jann Carl from The Biggest Loser, and Alison Sweeney from The Biggest Loser.
Even more ironic, these reality personalities paid tributes and praise to Jerry Lewis at the last night show.
“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, reported CBS, regarding Lewis’ absence at the 2011 telethon.
“In my 42 years in show business, I’ve seen a great deal of injustice, this ranks right up to the top,” said comedian Tom Dreesen, reported CBS.