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Richard Lewis, revered comic and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ star, dies at 76

The comedian and actor passed away peacefully in his home after suffering a heart attack on Tuesday night.
/ Source: NBC News

Richard Lewis, the beloved stand-up comedian and a star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” has died, his publicist announced.

Lewis, 76, died at his home in Los Angeles after a heart attack Tuesday night, according to his publicist, Jeff Abraham.

The actor revealed in April that he had been living with Parkinson’s disease.

Joyce Lapinsky, Lewis’ wife, “thanks everyone for all the love, friendship and support and asks for privacy at this time,” according to the statement shared by Abraham.

Comedian Richard Lewis Portrait Session
Comedian Richard Lewis poses for a portrait session at The Laugh Factory on May 5, 2014, in West Hollywood, California.Michael S. Schwartz / WireImage

Lewis is co-starring in the final season of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO.

David said Wednesday he was mourning his lifelong friend’s death.

“Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me. He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest,” David said in a statement. “But today he made me sob and for that I’ll never forgive him.”

Lewis, born in Brooklyn and raised in Englewood, New Jersey, first tried his hand at stand-up in New York City in the early 1970s — alongside the likes of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Andy Kaufman, Richard Belzer and Elayne Boosler — before making a career of it when he was discovered by comedian David Brenner. By the middle of the decade, he had already appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

He was immediately recognized as a dark comic, literally and figuratively, known for his all-black getups and performing frequently self-loathing sets about his neuroses and addictions.

Lewis made his TV debut with “Diary of a Young Comic,” a 90-minute movie that took the place of “Saturday Night Live” on NBC in 1979 but really rose to prominence with his continued late-night appearances during the ‘80s and ‘90s.

He became a veritable rock star of the comedy world in those decades, starring in multiple stand-up specials on Showtime and HBO, while making high-profile appearances on specials such as the Comic Relief charitable fundraisers.

He starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in the sitcom “Anything but Love,” which aired from 1988 to 1992, before landing roles in a few short-lived sitcoms and movies throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

In a tribute to Lewis posted on Instagram, Curtis said the actor “blew everyone else away” during his audition and “got the part when I snort laughed when he mispronounced the word Bundt cake.”

“It turns out he was a wonderful actor. Deep and so freaking funny,” Curtis said of Lewis. She said his last text to her was an effort to convince execs at ABC and Disney to put out another boxed set of episodes of the show.

Curtis also said Lewis was the reason she is sober.

“He helped me. I am forever grateful for him for that act of grace alone,” she said. “I’m weeping as I write this. Strange way of saying thank you to a sweet and funny man. Rest in laughter, Richard.”

In 2000, Lewis became a staple on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” playing a dramatized version of himself in the same vein as star and creator Larry David.

The show, airing now in what David claims to be the final season, features Lewis as his same curmudgeonly character who often hits the golf course with David. A season five storyline even featured David donating a kidney to Lewis.

David and Lewis go way back. The pair were born days apart at a Brooklyn hospital, but officially met for the first time at a summer camp when they were 12.

Lewis has said he and David hated each other as teens but reconciled when meeting as adults in the New York comedy scene.

“We were arch-rivals as teenagers at a summer sports camp. Our issues started at birth,” Lewis told New Jersey Monthly in a 2015 interview. “I’m convinced that Larry tried to strangle me with my mother’s umbilical cord.”

Lewis went on to say that he was a good athlete at camp, while “Larry was a gangly, obnoxious asshole.”

“I hated him,” Lewis said in 2015. “We became friendly years later as young comics in New York, but I noticed something one night. ‘There’s something about you I hate,’ I told him. ‘Wait, you’re that Larry David from summer camp.’ And he said, ‘You’re that Richard Lewis.’ We nearly came to blows.”

A spokesperson for HBO, where “Curb” along with a number of Lewis’ comedy specials have aired, said in a statement that they are “heartbroken” to hear of the comic’s death.

“His comedic brilliance, wit and talent were unmatched. Richard will always be a cherished member of the HBO and Curb Your Enthusiasm families, our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and all the fans who could count on Richard to brighten their days with laughter,” the spokesperson said. 

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.