Actor and comedian Richard Lewis admits he has a fussy temperament. That's OK, though, because the whining and moaning helps him land roles.
"I'm a big complainer," he says. "All the other actors are jealous, because all I have to do is show up and the director says, 'Action,' and I just ad-lib."
Lewis, 66, will perform this weekend at the Fort Lauderdale Improv. He recently spoke to the Sun Sentinel by phone from his Los Angeles home, where he maintains an extensive art and photography collection. "I have pictures of Miles Davis, Sophia Loren, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood," he says. "One time, Ringo came to my house and wanted to run out right away. They hate seeing themselves when they were younger. Luckily, my wife lies to me, and tells me I still look great."
Lewis has been working in show business for almost five decades. Known for his roles in the early-'90s TV show "Anything but Love" and the 1993 Mel Brooks film "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," he says his younger fans are more acquainted with his appearances on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and in Super Bowl ads for Snickers (in 2011) and for Hyundai (this year).
Lewis says he's now able to joke about his struggles with low self-esteem, but living up to his reputation as the "Prince of Pain" wasn't always easy. "My family wasn't supportive of what I did, and I wore it like a glove," he recalls. "I was a raging alcoholic, and it's embarrassing the things I did to people."
When he met his wife, Joyce, things changed. "I married the right woman," he says. "I never would have been a good husband if not for her." The couple married in 2005.
This year, Lewis plans to release a documentary about his life and says he will soon publish a book. He'll also appear in the move "Squirrels to the Nuts," with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. "I play a redneck. There's this one scene where I'm only in my underwear and a cowboy hat," he says. "God help me."
Richard Lewis will perform Feb. 27 through March 1, at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 5700 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $25. Go to Ftl.improv.com.