Sometimes Jerry Lewis made us cringe, but here’s why it’s okay to like him

American actor Jerry Lewis shown May 25, 1982 at Cannes Film Festival in France. (AP Photo/Levy)

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When legendary performer Jerry Lewis passed away on Sunday, there was an inevitable tidal wave of condolences. Well wishes poured in from all sides of the entertainment spectrum, and an array of respected comedic minds were eager to let the word know just how much of an influence Lewis had been on their careers.

None of this was unexpected, Lewis’ legacy speaks for itself, and he was unquestionably influential on hordes of American humorists and comedic performers. There was just one small problem: Jerry Lewis was kind of a dick.

It’s a terrible thing to type about a person less than a day after their (albeit timely) demise. But it was true. And it’s a persona that the man himself never shied away from. Many who crossed paths with Jerry Lewis in recent times will remember him as a cantankerous old blowhard who held some very unpopular opinions — as well as a few downright offensive ones.

Through his long-running series of  Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons, Lewis raised an estimated $2.5 billion and he picked up plenty of plaudits for himself during the process, including the 2009 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

RELATED: Watch Jerry Lewis speak candidly about his contentious relationship with Dean Martin

When he passed away on Sunday at the ripe old age of 91, the White House issued a statement of condolence, which mentioned “his incredible charity work” that “touched the lives of millions.” It called him “one of our greatest entertainers and humanitarians.”

But not everyone agreed:

This problematic side of the Jerry Lewis coin, was, for some people, difficult to look past. Which is completely understandable. Some people feel incredibly guilty for continuing to support an artist who they perceive as a morally dubious person.

But is a complete boycott necessary?

Is it possible to despise an artist but adore their work? Many professional wrestling fans will tell you it is. That industry has spat out countless contemptuous individuals from all sides of the political spectrum, but the fans always come back for more.

You can acknowledge the flaws of a talented person, but still enjoy their work. Obviously, we all have our limits, and there’s a line in the sand — nobody expects you to acknowledge that Hitler’s paintings were actually quite good — but you’re definitely allowed to enjoy a Jerry Lewis movie once in a while.

Even if he was a dick.

RELATED: Here are some of the most gloriously goofy moments from the brilliant career of Jerry Lewis

What do you think?

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