Jerry Lewis has hosted the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual telethon since 1966 – practically for as long as telethons have been possible – but this year he was absent for the first time, not even arriving to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone as anticipated. In spite of the venerable funnyman’s absence, this year’s telethon raised more than last year – Jerry's Kids are apparently going to be ok without him.

No one will really say what happened – first it was announced that Jerry would no longer be hosting on the show, and in the end he didn’t appear in the telecast at all. He is reported to have “retired”. The telethon has been Jerry’s baby for so long that even as the show unfolded co-host Nigel Lythgoe expected him to show up. But the telethon reached its end with no sign of Lewis. It was closed however with a tribute to the man in the form of a montage of clips from his years with the telethon.

It was in inglorious end to the many years of service Lewis put into the telethon, and the $1.66 billion in fundraising dollars that was the result of his work. Still, this year’s telethon did well, according to an AP report bringing in $61.5 million, up $2.6 million from last year and the highest donation level since the recession started. Whether more people tuned in to see if Jerry would show, or donations were higher in his honor is impossible to say, but I think it’s safe to say it isn’t a sign of an improving economy.

Lewis will stay on a National Chairman for the MDA and has promised he will “never desert MDA and my kids”. It’s too bad he didn’t get the send-off he deserved from a charity for which he has worked tirelessly. Like the man or not, that’s a lot of years of dedication. Perhaps a retirement cake and a lovely gold watch, MDA?

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