The 85-year-old Lewis announced Monday that this year's show will be his last, promising that he'll still perform his signature song, "You'll Never Walk Alone." He'll continue to serve as the Muscular Dystrophy Association's national chairman as he has the early 1950s. "I'll never desert MDA and my kids," he said.
Lewis — who rose to fame as part of a comedy duo with Dean Martin before becoming a filmmaker — has put on some 900 hours of live television in the last 45 years to raise money seeking cures for muscular dystrophy and related diseases.
In January, Lewis sold the rights to three of his classic '60s comedies — The Bellboy, Cinderfella, and The Family Jewels — so they could be remade. The 1996 remake of Lewis' The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy wound up becoming a box-office hit.
Lewis has had health problems of his own, including heart attacks and prostate cancer. About a decade ago, he noticeably ballooned because of steroid treatment for pulmonary fibrosis.
"It's time for an all-new telethon era," Lewis said.