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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 17:12 GMT
Jerry Lewis in top French honour
Actor and comedian Jerry Lewis, left, and French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres
Jerry Lewis praised the French sense of humour
US comedian Jerry Lewis has celebrated his 80th birthday in Paris receiving France's highest civilian honour in a raucous ceremony.

Mr Lewis winked, stuck out his tongue and made faces during the event to award him the Legion of Honour.

The actor turned up for the usually sober event, in a gilded hall of the Ministry of Culture, wearing slippers.

He then yawned, checked his watch and pretended to fall asleep as the culture minister made a 20-minute speech.

The crowd roared at Lewis' antics, often drowning out minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres' speech in which he called the actor the "French people's favourite clown".

The French people are the best in the world
Jerry Lewis

Ministry officials then presented the star of 1963 film The Nutty Professor with a massive cake and sang Happy Birthday.

Speaking afterwards, Lewis apologised for not speaking French, but said that "even if the French people cannot hear my language, they have always heard my heart".

He said he was flattered by his induction into the Legion of Honour, and that he had been "gloriously elevated" by the award.

"The French people are the best in the world," the King of Comedy actor added.

Lewis is one of 37 foreigners to have received the title in the past three years.


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