This year's Jerry Lewis-less MDA Labor Day telethon: Did you watch? Donate?


Image Credit: Richard Cartwright/MDA/AP Images

Turns out the old showbiz saying “The show must go on,” applies to telethons as well. Yesterday’s 46th Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon marked the first without host Jerry Lewis since he stepped down as MDA’s national chairman in August, just three months after he’d announced he would no longer be emceeing the event, a duty he’d served since 1966.

So how did the six-hour long Labor Day mainstay fare without him? Judging by the numbers alone, pretty well. The marathon, which featured a series of new hosts, including — perhaps to the dismay of Lewis who slammed reality shows like American Idol and The Biggest Loser — Nigel Lythgoe, Alison Sweeney, Nancy O’Dell and Jann Carl (pictured) and guest appearances by Ryan Seacrest, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, helped raise more than $61.4 million. That’s almost $2 million more than the 2010 telethon that turned out to be Lewis’ last.

Despite there being no surprise appearance by Lewis (How many of you tuned in for the faint hope that it might happen just to watch some inevitable awkwardness unfold?) or signature moments by the 85-year-old legend (like his rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”), the show still paid homage to him throughout, with pictures of The Nutty Professor actor on the set, a montage (featuring moments with “Jerry’s Kids”) and the hosts, including Lythgoe, thanking him for his years of generous service.

But, I’m curious PopWatchers, what made you tune in? Was it to see how the telethon would do without him or because you’d tired of Lewis’ act over the years and were ready to see someone new take over? Did the telethon feel different to you without Lewis, or more or less the same? How about the fact that it was only six-hours long instead of last year’s 20-plus? Did you donate to this year’s successful fund raising efforts? Share in the comments section below!

Read more:
Jerry Lewis retires as host of MDA Labor Day telethon
Jerry Lewis is no longer MDA’s national chairman
Jerry Lewis slams ‘American Idol’ and ‘Biggest Loser’

Comments (84 total) Add your comment
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  • Ben

    No. I did not watch, nor did I donate. I donated a few hundred dollars to MD in the past, and I donate to other charities recently, such as Save the Children. I also recommend That is a great site with several worthy charities. Jerry Lewis is 85 Years Old. Let him retire and enjoy his Old age.

  • MiaS

    Why would I watch without Jerry?

    • HRU

      because Jerry is NOT what it was about?

      • Astick

        It’s not about Jerry? Then give back all the money he raised since 1966.

  • Travis

    I donated my $1 more than last year in the first 5 minutes of the show, as I always do. Of course I donated because I’ve been a lifelong supported of MDA. I was made that way by Mr Lewis and the telethon. Of course I’ll continue to suport MDA until a cure is found. But I did not watch the telethon, nor will I ever again. Mr Lewis was part of my Labor Day tradition. The cause retains my money and my support, but the program loses my viewership. Thank you Mr Lewsi, for your years of service.

    • Deblyn

      I totally agree with Travis…I will keep donating to the cause but will no longer watch the telethon..

      • rocky

        I totally disagree
        .when Jerry was part of the organization he added credibility,expunging him in that manner was disrespectful, foul, dishonest and anti American.I am a baby boomer that grew up with Mr.Lewis.every year I looked forward to seeing Jerry and his host of it’s all gone.and it deeply saddens me.I believe he was forced out..because he spoke out about Paris Hilton Lindsy Lohan..
        i live in the tri state area.the telethon stated that they beat least years total by $100.000.I don’t believe it.! the tri state area was hit with hurricane Irene! many were with out power,many had flood waters that filled there basements.many lost all of there belongings. 7 homes in my town were condemned who had time or the electric to send in money?I believe it was shilled like American Idol same executive producer. my money now goes to st. Lukes.Danny Thomas is another Icon figue that I respect.

  • Charlee

    I think Alison Sweeney and Nancy O’Dell have been co-hosting for a couple of years now, atleast since last year.

  • marge

    I watched it for about twenty minutes to see if any good talent would be shown; aside from Lady Ante Bellum, there was none.

  • Donna

    For about 5 minutes. Jerry devoted his entire life to MDA and “his kids”. I pray that there will be a cure found for all these diseases. While I am thankful that the telethon raised more this year (especially with the economy in the shape it is in), it is not the same without Jerry hosting. Nancy, Allison and Jann have helped Jerry for several years. But when I think of the MDA Telethon, I think of Jerry and his obvious love for “his kids”. Jerry, I thank you for your years of selflessness, hard work and dedication. I pray that you are well. May God Bless you!

  • Debbie

    Could not even find it to watch.

  • BOTR

    I watched until the first local station portion of the show, then turned the channel and never went back. I very likely won’t tune in at all next year (assuming it comes back).

  • Amber

    This year’s show was 100 times better than any of the recent Jerry led shows from a entertainment perspective. Also much improved was the emphasis of the success of people with MD when they have support, unlike Jerry who just liked to focus on how much his “kids” should be pitied.

    • Astick

      your a joke

  • Jay

    Our wedding day was Labor Day weekend 29 years ago. In the Honeymoon Suite, we had the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon on TV all night long. In addition to to donating to MDA that year and every year, our Labor Day Anniversary celebrations will never be the same without Jerry Lewis asking for tympany and listening “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love” just like we had that Honeymoon Night 29 years ago. I will continue to donate, but will never watch the telethon again without Jerry.

    • ger

      You watched a telethon all night long on your wedding night?

      • Jay

        No. The TV was on inthe background with sound and light flickering. Did not watch it. Too busy.

  • grandpajoe

    I caught the last 15 minutes of the show – and saw the Jerry Lewis Montage – the show isn’t the same without Jerry.
    As for the amount of money – much of the monies were collected way before the actual telethon – what I am curious about id HOW MUCH WAS ACTUALLY donated during broadcast time. The

    • PN

      I think they stuck with the old 21 hour format of collecting the money, but I wonder how much they donated and collected from viewers and callers during that 6 hour broadcast from 6 pm to 12 am. I’m sure it might have been 10 million of that 61 million collected.

  • Julie

    I watched the MDA telthon this year for a few minutes, however found it lacking without Jerry. I know that Jerry was retiring from the show next year and I was prepared for that, but I was very disappointed in the powers-that-be when I heard that MDA asked him not to appear this year. This man has dedicated his life to this cause, and instead of receiving a much-deserved on-air thank you, he is asked to not appear.
    Jerry, you have my gratitude and admiration for all your years of dedication to this worthy cause. Enjoy your retirement.

  • ST

    I’m wondering how much of this money was raised because of the new hosts or because of a down economy. Studies have shown that when times are tougher, people tend to give more so I think it may have more to do with that then getting new hosts. Still won’t be quite the same without Jerry. I didn’t watch.

    • PN

      I think it was the economy that made the numbers go down the past 2 or 3 years. Some people want to hold on to their money and politely declined to donate. But I think that out of respect to Jerry and the years he hosted it, and because he didn’t host it this year, I decided not to watch the telethon this year. I commend him for the remarkable 45 years that he hosted it from 1966 to 2010.

    • cbs

      They stockpiled all the big ticket gifts from firefighters and seven eleven into the pot… Jerry’s total was only from people like you or I who could give what they could. If you factored in the big checks Jerry brought in then the total would have been closer to a billion

  • eileen willner

    I did not watch the show this year. I have been a faithful devotee of this telethon since its beginning and have always been a donor to it. I would like to know if MDA is measuring apples and oranges..did they list funds given before the show and Jerry not do that? Their dismissal of Jerry was callous and sad. I will not watch this telethon again.

  • bert peters

    perhaps the reason that Jerry isn’t involved with MDA and the telethon is that he’s no longer physically able to do so … this sounds like a very serious health issue to me, and we should all appreciate the work Jerry has done in the past, and I for one wish him all the best.

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