Richard Lewis Riffing in One of His Last Interviews

Richard Lewis called me barely a month ago, on Jan. 22, to gush about his friend Susie Essman.

“I adore her,” he said, eagerly offering his thoughts for a profile of his co-star on the Larry David series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “She’s so on the money with her delivery.”

Lewis, who announced last year that he had Parkinson’s disease, played himself as David’s friend on the show (as he was in real life). He and Essman, the comedian and actress behind the invective-spewing Susie Greene, the wife of David’s manager, provoked very different reactions from fans, he recalled.

“When I’ve been with her in public, they want her to yell things back at them,” he said. “For me, it’s like, ‘You’re going to be all right, Richard.’”

He dialed me directly, rather than having a publicist connect us, as is more common, and seemed happy to stay on the phone and crack jokes.

Listening to the recording of our conversation on Wednesday after news of his death at 76, I hear a lot of my own laughter. Lewis was effortlessly funny and sharp.

“I’ve got to give Jeff Garlin a lot of credit for hanging in,” he said of the comic who plays David’s manager and Essman’s beleaguered husband, the object of her expletive-filled, improvised tirades. “I mean, it’s a television show, but how he can have any self-esteem left after what he has taken — it’s just a barrage. Every time a scene is over, it looks like he’s limping back from the Civil War. He’s just all bloodied.

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