Jerry Lewis

Despite the absence of longtime host Jerry Lewis, the 2011 Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon raised $61.5 million, up approximately $2.6 million from last year, The Associated Press reports.

Lewis was on the minds of many at the telethon, including co-host Nigel Lythgoe, who said he was sad the comedian didn't participate in the telethon. Lythgoe told the AP he had expected Lewis to make an appearance, and that an orchestra was ready to accompany him if he had shown up to the Las Vegas casino where the telethon was filmed. The telethon also kicked off with a tribute to Lewis.

MDA telethon begins with tribute to Jerry Lewis

Lewis hosted the telethon for 45 years and raised $1.66 billion prior to the MDA's August announcement that he would no longer host the show or serve as chairman.

However, Lewis' work with the MDA will be recognized during a new fundraiser launching Monday. Famed Los Angeles comedy club The Laugh Factory will hold a web-athon featuring comedians Norm Crosby and Dave Chappelle. Fans will be able to watch the performances online and make donations.

Proceeds from the event will fund the new Jerry Lewis Award, which will be presented to those working toward a cure for muscular dystrophy. Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said the event will run annually on Labor Day until a cure is found.

Did you watch the MDA telethon? Did you miss Lewis?