Like countless other geeky gals, I had a crush on my best male pal throughout college. So watching the late-'80s sitcom Anything But Love, starring Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis as workplace buddies reluctant to act on their mutual attraction, was like my life — only much, much funnier. Although the black-clad, mullet-sporting Lewis was already a stand-up comedy legend, the series introduced his neurotic, Jewish Jersey boy persona to the prime-time masses. But while the show had a devoted following, it was never a certifiable hit; in fact, it was actually canceled after its second season, until ABC reconsidered and brought it back completely retooled the following year. (It didn't last too long after that.) Despite all the behind-the-scenes drama on this screwball romantic comedy, Lewis — who currently costars as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm — views Anything But Love as his breakthrough. On the occasion of the laffer's DVD release, he rants about the good times and the bad.
Richard Lewis: [Answering the phone] Is this reception good? I'm in my house and it's in the hills and it was built in the '20s and it's haunted. I'm currently in the unhaunted room, but I can move to another one if you can't hear me.
TVGuide.com: Wow, listen to you. And your publicist said you were nowhere near as neurotic as you used to be.
Lewis: What? I'm going to fire her for that lie, even though she's been my publicist forever. She's wrong. Completely wrong.
TVGuide.com: I'm so glad.
Lewis: The only thing I have going for me these days is my marriage. I just had my second anniversary.
TVGuide.com: I was shocked to discover you were married.
Lewis: So was I, and so was my wife, to be honest.
TVGuide.com: How did it happen? Did she get you drunk?
Lewis: No, I've been sober for almost 13 years now. I think had I been drunk, I probably wouldn't have found someone like her. But on the other hand, because of the bottomless pit of my low self-esteem — which my publicist seems to forget about — it's very difficult for me to accept the fact that my wife said, "I do." Of course, I mumbled, "I'll try," but she didn't hear that. Wow, this is basically like my act when I ramble for 90 minutes or so on stage.
TVGuide.com: Then perhaps I should steer you to the subject at hand: the DVD release of Volume One of Anything But Love. A lot of stand-up comedians have sitcoms developed around their shtick. Is that what happened in this case?
Lewis: No, I just auditioned for the role. I had been a stand-up for a long time, but to get that big, you know, network prime-time thing, that was great. All of a sudden I was on a promo in the middle of Roseanne, and before the end of the day millions of people knew my face. It was just a whole other ball game. So it was very important to me to have this series last.
TVGuide.com: Unfortunately, it didn't last that long. Although it was on the air from 1989 to 1992, there were only three-and-a-half seasons before it was unceremoniously and unexpectedly canceled.
Lewis: I know. I was really happy to see that 20th Century Fox left in some of the comments [on the commentary tracks] about how the show was canceled. It was historic actually, because we were canceled by our own studio [versus by the network]. It was a shocker. Jamie Lee and I drove up to the soundstage, ready for a Monday morning read-through of a new script, totally unaware that some higher-up had decided we were done.
TVGuide.com: Did you ever get an explanation for why the studio pulled the plug?
Lewis: The bottom line was that although the network had picked us up for another 26 episodes, the powers-that-be thought that even when we finished those, we'd still be shy of 100, which is the magic syndication number, and they didn't have confidence that we would get picked up for an additional season. That was sort of tragic, particularly for Jamie Lee Curtis. It was her show, it was built around her at the outset, and she didn't even know what was happening.
TVGuide.com: It was also tragic for the show's fans: We never got to find out what happened to your characters.
Lewis: I was disappointed we didn't get to end it, too. The thing with Marty and Hannah was they were really great friends before they became lovers. Interestingly enough, that's what happened with me and my wife, although I tried to cut our foreplay short.... You know what? I just caught myself in a lie. My wife and I had intercourse before we knew we were going to be best friends.
TVGuide.com: I always wondered how Marty and Hannah were able to resist bedding each other from the outset.
Lewis: I know! Since it was always hard for me to separate art and life, even on the show I was thinking, "Why am I not sleeping with this woman? It's crazy!" I'd be on the road and guys working on skyscrapers in Manhattan would yell out to me, "When are you going to sleep with Jamie Lee?" The pressure was so great! I couldn't handle it. I was so happy when we finally had television sex.
TVGuide.com: Having sex with your costar isn't something you have to worry about on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Is it true that you and Larry David have known each other since you were 12?
Lewis: Yup, we met at summer camp and we despised one another. He was annoying, I was annoying to him.... We were arch rivals. When the summer was over, we moved back [to our respective] homes, and I had no intention of ever talking to that moron again, nor him me. Fourteen years later, [without recognizing each other] we became the best of friends on the stand-up circuit. One night, about two years into our friendship, I looked at him and something about him really scared the hell out of me. It was like a Polanski moment. So we sat down and retraced our childhoods, and lo and behold, when we came down to camp we flipped out.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of flipping out, I freaked when I saw you as a rabbi on 7th Heaven — not that I watch the show or anything.
Lewis: Trust me, neither do I. I mean, I knew that the show existed, but I'd much rather watch 12 Ingmar Bergman films back-to-back than a 7th Heaven marathon. But the executive producer [Brenda Hampton] was a huge fan and she said I had to play the part, and now I have a whole new audience. After three years and all the reruns, I'll be walking through an airport and two beautiful, young, let's say certainly-not-Jewish girls will run up to me and scream, "There's the Jew!" Even though they're saying it in a loving way, it's very easy for a Jewish person to immediately get paranoid and start running to his gate. Being on that show was fun, but there is no doubt in my mind that I was the first Jewish actor to walk on that set. There was a different scent on the soundstage. Even the dog Happy — I think they called him Unhappy when I was there — used to bite my ankles. And the snacks changed. In the corner there was a token bagel with a little swab of cream cheese with "RL" emblazoned on it. "Don't touch! It's for the Jew!"
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