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Comedy icon Jerry Lewis ill in Australia

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, June 25, 2011 9:57 EDT
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SYDNEY (AFP) – Veteran US comedian Jerry Lewis has had to cancel a sell-out Sydney tour after collapsing from exhaustion as he prepared to take the stage, promoters said Saturday.

The 85-year-old was due to perform before a packed house in western Sydney Friday night to raise money for muscular dystrophy but the event was called off at the last minute after he fell ill.

Lewis has cancelled the remainder of his Sydney tour to rest and will return to the stage on Thursday for a Melbourne performance if his health permits.

“He is extremely disappointed for his fans that he was unable to perform last night, but a combination of a long flight from the US and a busy few days on the start of his national tour led to his exhaustion,” said David Jack, head of Australia’s Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.

A doctor had attended to the comedy star but he had not been hospitalised and was “feeling much better” after resting in his hotel overnight, added Jack.

“He wanted me to give a very important message just to quash any rumours: `I’m not pregnant’,” he joked.

“Understandably, Jerry’s health is our primary concern throughout this period and we want to ensure he’s able to travel home healthy.”

Many people in the 700-strong audience for Friday’s event had elected to donate the cost of their ticket rather than seek a refund and Jack said he had been “overwhelmed” when they rose to give the absent star a standing ovation.

Staff at the club where Lewis had been due to perform said the comedy legend had been unable to get out of the car when he arrived Friday and looked “extremely unwell”.

“On meeting Mr Lewis he was very pale, looked quite frail and was unable to communicate very well,” the club’s general manager, Ian Lowe, told ABC Radio.

Lewis had been scheduled to do a dinner engagement on Saturday night and another event on Sunday, both of which were called off.

Known for his legendary 1940s comedy partnership with Dean Martin, Lewis has also achieved success as a film producer, screenwriter, director and singer and was awarded a humanitarian Oscar in 2009.

Poor health saw him hospitalised in Australia once before, in 1999, when he fell ill with viral meningitis.

A diabetic, Lewis has also undergone heart surgery following a number of heart attacks and battled prostate cancer and lung problems.

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