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Summary

In a World of Sheep, Jean Shepherd
Airdate: May 1962


Show Description
Shep, they call him in 30 states and they love him because he talks to them over the radio each weekday evening at 11: 15 on station WOR out of New York City. Who are they? They might be anyone. The first time I heard of him was from a shrewd political campaign manager who had got a governor elected. "You ought to tune in," he told me. "Shep is a modern-day Socrates. I listen every night. And you know what? So does Thurber." (James Thurber, the late humorist.) So I tuned in once, and for three months I was on the Shepherd list, until my wife saved me by making dates so I would be out of the house at the magic time. Shep is like smoking, you either take him hard or you leave him alone. His bit is to talk - just talk - in a funny, self-centered, free-wheeling way. Every time he opens his mouth, an irreverent idea tumbles out. Since his mouth is nearly always open, off-mike or on, these ideas crowd each other in a string of profound and zany free associations, almost all of which sting. Early last January, for example, he told about a large corporation that had advertised in the Wall Street Journal for land it wanted to make into a private cemetery for its employees. "You see," he pointed out, "these guys were not even able to give up when they died. They wanted to be Vice-Presidents of Cost Accounting beyond the grate!" Intrigued by this sample of corporate madness, he continued, "We're going to reach a point, you know, where we'll be like the Egyptians - when we die, a guy's resume is going on the back of his headstone. His answering service number is going to be listed in case any messages come through. And buried with him, I'm sure, will be the various awards he got from Business Week Daily, He'll be buried, probably, with the tools of his trade, like his files and his telephone list." Obviously this sort of thing strikes Shep as funny, but not in the sense that it should be laughed at, or even argued with. "You can't argue with the condition of man. I don't say this condition is good or it's bad. It's what we are." When I spoke to the editors of Climax about Shep, they agreed with me it might be interesting to drag a tape-recorder up to the man's WOR office and see what he would say about this, that and everything. So I put my recorder in working order and phoned WOR. Shep would call me right back, I was told. The next day, not hearing from him, I phoned again. I was told I had to get the magazine to write a letter, which I did. Still no Shep. I phoned again. Nothing. Yet, each night his voice buzzed merrily away on WOR. I phoned during and after his show in the wee hours; the line was busy. Finally, I sent telegrams. My wife thought I was nuts: sending telegrams from New York City to a man in New York City. PLEASE PHONE ME, the telegrams said. Still nothing. I told the magazine I had given up. Then three weeks later around 2 P.M. my phone rang and it was Shep. "I understand you want to do an article about me," he said, then added without waiting for my answer, "I've been up in Toronto with New Faces (a yearly revue for new talent that has discovered people like Eartha Kitt), but I'll be damned if I'll admit humor depends on tearing off a girl's dress." I agreed with him. Anyway, he continued, he had his doubts whether all big and famous people - and especially powerful people - knew what they were doing. "I remember working for a radio station in Cincinnati, owned by Marshall Field no less, and when they were passing out television stations to anyone who applied and we were all wondering when we would go TV, too, Marshall Field came down to talk to us. (Shep's voice took on sudden dignity and charm.) 'Boys,' Field said - you know here was this rich and powerful man and we listened - you're all just cogs in a big organization and only a few of us know what's going on, but we've studied this thing upside and down, gotten reports from all the boys in the field, had surveys taken, and we know that this television is just a fad now and won't be anything much until 1975. So we're staying out.' " I started laughing and couldn't stop - suddenly Shep was off, and he did a half hour for me right there on the phone. The little people have got to be subversive, he said, or they'll get taken for pants and all, like when he was Robert Taft's announcer (Senator Taft) in 1948 during the elections and Taft told him: "Shepherd, we're going to win this one and there's no doubt about it." See, you've got to do something, Shep maintained, or the powers-that-be will screw up everything - "So when we would relay one of Taft's speeches through our station to the network, one of our engineers would seguey in a record of boos and hisses with the applause. He even made his false teeth click. Poor Taft could never figure out why the network said he sounded so terrible." You have to believe none of what he says is true, and enjoy it, or that all of it is true and shudder at it. Either way, Jean Shepherd is one of the most entertaining people we've got around - an oddball who, although he isn't what might be considered a name, has literally millions of devoted listeners throughout all the states east of the Rockies. When I told him I wanted to record him, he said, "Fine, come right over." Here is the result, and although you might not understand it - I still don't understand all of it - it is the reason why this man has such a huge and loyal underground following, and I think you'll be entertained. Shep: What do I do? I work on the air as a humorist. My show is a very personal one. I work like a writer. Most people don't know anything anymore about radio and they assume there are only three types of people on, disc jockeys, guys who interview people and newscasters. But me, I'm a humorist. This really screwed up Newsweek when they did a piece on me. They finally called me a disc-less disc jockey - which got me into one of the three niches. Now isn't that insane? Really I'm a humorist. Whit: Okay. Shep: Really, Art; you know if Mort Sahl were on the radio, doing what he's doing at the Blue Angel, they would call him a disc jockey. Whit: You are, then a humorist. Shep: Well, really, I'm a satirist. Whit: Oh? Shep: Things have changed. A year or two ago I was just a crackpot. Now I'm a satirist. But there is a big difference between a satirist and - say - a comic. Guys like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce, they're always dealing with "we" and "they." You know, "We're the hip ones, they are the slobs." The satirist talks about "me," that's all. Sahl isn't dealing with mankind, he's dealing with invisible forces we should get rid of so the world would be better. For instance, instead of attacking the milieu from which Orval Faubus comes - the 20th Century world that Sahl himself is part of - Sahl attacks Faubus. It's a very different thing from satire. Whit: How would you approach Faubus? Shep: I never talk about Faubus. I talk about the bias in all of us. I accept Man as a creature who can't stand peace. He's like a vegetarian lion. Now a lion might want to be a vegetarian, but he isn't; and you can train him but all you have to do is throw one steak in front of him and GULP. Man isn't a peaceful creature, he's a predatory creature. I don't care who he is, a Baptist minister, Orval Faubus, Hitler or your Cousin Kate. We're all born with those meat-eating incisors. The only way we can approach a situation like this is by understanding it, But we like to believe there are bad people and good people. Whit: Aren't there better and worse people, though? Shep: Not really. You have to concede the thing that's in Faubus is in us, except that Faubus happens to be hung up on it. Understand what I mean? The thing that was in Hitler is in you. We all want to have power over our neighbors in one way or another. You say you don't? Well, being a writer is one way of attaining power over certain people. Whit: I don't think I'm conscious - Shep: Well, I don't think Hitler was conscious of it either. Hitler thought he was doing good for the German people. That's the sad fact of it. That's another thing we like to do, we want to assume that a bad guy knows he's bad. In other words we want to think Faubus knows he's rotten and he would like to be good like us, but I believe most of these people believe what they say because what they say is in all of us. Whit: What about education? Shep: Education doesn't mean anything. Sixty-three minion Germans were educated to love their fellow man and they killed millions of people. It doesn't mean anything. What does education mean? Education is like, again, training a lion not to eat meat. Whit: You think, then, we're going to have another war, an atomic war? Shep: Yes, or whatever war that is around. Whit: What do you think of the shelter program? Shep: I think it gives people something to do like the yo-yo. Whit: You mean it makes no sense? Shep: It has sense if the people would admit they're doing it because they enjoy doing it. Whit: But couldn't fallout shelters be a protective measure? Shep: Well, maybe some will be protected by it and some won't, but the fact is I believe preparation for war and the thought of war has always been very exciting to people. People enjoy it. It's no coincidence that most of the statues around are erected to generals and most of the movies center around war of one kind or another even if they are western shoot-downs. War is one of the most exciting things we know. Don't almost all of your male magazines, including Climax, print articles titled "I Killed 147 Japs on Iwo Jima with My Hunting Knife"? We're all like companies, you know. We have one side of us that writes our own promotion. Then we have another side which is what we are. Now the best of all possible worlds is to make them both seem the same, and so we claim that man is a good creature and that he is peaceful but evil forces make us go to war - all the evil forces conveniently being someone else, some-where else. Whit: But what about the reasonable man? Shep: There's a terribly prophetic quotation taken from a stone tablet, believe it or not, found in Grecian ruins that applies to us. You know, here we are, and there is very little for the average man beyond eating, sleeping, getting up, eating, sleeping, going to work and coming back again, and as our world becomes more automated it gets more boring, you know, how many games of golf can you play before golf pails, how many women can you chase before they become just women? - well, war gives us the perfect out because it's for a whooping big deal, you know, let's clear the slate of these terrible people and stuff like that... Whit: What was the quotation? Shep: The tablet said: "Because they could not endure the terrors of peace, the Spartans went to war." Whit: What are the terrors of peace? Shep: Abject boredom. That's right. Isn't it a coincidence that as the Russians begin to get their system under control and they have refrigerators, now, and automobiles and television and rock 'n' roll that they're getting more and more pugnacious? And isn't it interesting that just as we've got it so hardly anybody dies of starvation in the United States anymore, why the John Birch people spring up, their tails bristling, their eyes shining? Whit: That lion again? Shep: Have you noticed the so-called horror film has become a big thing again on our TV and in movies? You know horror films were almost out of business right after World War II. For the last three or four years they have boomed. Are you aware that the horror film reached its peak in Europe, in Germany during 1936, '37, '38? Whit: Are you suggesting this is an indicator that we're getting ourselves ready to pounce? Shep: I say that you don't get the truth about people from the pulpit, or from the newspaper editorial page, or from some serious drama or something. You get the truth when you just watch what you do. In fact I did a thing on the air once, and I said, 'Look, we're going to do a real public service here. We're going to have a moment of truth. Let's admit it, Is there anyone here that will admit their total rottenness?' Our switchboard was jammed for over an hour with people who wanted to admit their total rottenness. Whit: You mean there were people who were saying I'm happy to admit that I'm - Shep: One said he was happy to admit that for 20 years he'd been putting it over on BBD&O. "One day they're going to discover me. I hope." Every-one wanted to be discovered. Whit: Isn't it unusual for a man to be a philosopher on the radio? Shep: Here's what I feel about radio. I think it's about to come into its own. It's on the verge .of creating its own artists who work in that... Whit: Can you name some of these artists be-sides yourself? Shep: Well, there are several people. There's a guy out on the West Coast, Henry Jacobs, who is a fine radio satirist, one of the best I've ever heard. There's another on the Coast named Robert Arbogast. Whit: He used to be in Chicago, didn't he? Shep: That was when he was young, and he used to kid the sponsors. The first thing that happens with a guy is he criticizes the obvious. The first thing a novelist writes about is adolescent life - you know, the Holden Caufield bit. The equivalent in radio is when you kid your sponsors. Whit: Would this apply to Henry Morgan? Shep: Yes, Morgan never did grow up. He was the transition-type when radio was in the hands of the old vaudevillians - Fred Allen, Jack Benny. Morgan made it halfway up and then stopped. Whit: How about Allen? Shep: I don't think he deserved his reputation. He was a funny man, but not a profound man. Whit: What about W. C. Fields? Shep: Well, I'm not really a Fields man. I think he was a wonderful character, but I don't think anyone came away with a deeper insight into their world from W. C. Fields. Whit: What do you think of Chaplin? Shep: I don't think Chaplin... You see, these guys came at a fortunate time. We had just broken out from a frontier society - after all, they were back in World War I days and the frontier was only 30 years before. When you didn't get any kind of entertainment except the church social, vaudeville once a year looked good. Whit: Most people, even today, like Chaplin. Shep: Yes, why the cult today about him? I think its almost pure nostalgia. Most people live in one of two places. Either they live in the future which they think is going to be fantastic or bad, depending on their attitudes. Or they live in the past. Getting back to Chaplin - he was lucky. If there were two new movies in a year that hit, say, Mylan, Indiana, one of them was a Chaplin picture, so it was natural that he should become a great figure. Did you know that in the Twenties so many inept people became famous on the radio only because they were there? Whit: Like who? Shep: Graham MacNamee. I can name dozens of people who are totally inept. But a guy like my father living on the south side of Chicago built a crystal set and he got earphones and he's hearing a voice out of the air. This becomes like God, so Graham MacNamee became a great figure. Look at poor Ike? Whit: Ike who? Shep: Poor Eisenhower was only a star while he was President. As soon as he stopped being President... Did you know he was outdrawn on television a week ago by Mitch Miller? And by the Untouchables. He ran third - a bad third. Why? Because he's an ex-star now. Whit: You mean he was just popular because he was the only President we had? Shep: People are fascinated by the public image, not by what a guy does - take for example Jack Paar. What the hell is he all about? The people don't know why they watch. They tell you they don't like him but they don't miss a night. Paar becomes in a sense the dreams of millions of people. He is on Olympus: on one side of him is Jack Kennedy; on the other other is Zsa Zsa. He lives in a world composed of excitement. Whit: Don't people ever curse their gods, like Job did? Shep: Sure. Look at old Ike. Suddenly a god can fall into disfavor. Godfrey is a good example of that. Jack Paar is about to have it happen to him. When he leaves that night show, Paar will become, really, a total anonymity. He will be a fallen idol. He will never be able to regain it. Look at Steve Allen. Once you leave them, you'll never come back. Every time you try they'll say, he isn't as good as he used to be. Whit: Couldn't this happen to you? Shep: No, they're entertainers. I'm not. I'm just a Socratic gadfly. Whit: How did you get to be this? Shep: I have no idea. All I know is there I was on the radio. I was always an outsider. Whit: You grew up in Chicago. Shep: Chicago is an outsider's city, right from the start. Have you noticed all of the top humorists in the past ten years have come from Chicago? Mike and Elaine, Berman, Bob Newhart. When you grow up in Chicago and you have any kind of creative tendencies you know one thing, you're in the wrong place. You're an outsider right there, that's true. Fitzgerald showed this. He was always the guy from the Midwest looking through the window at the Princeton dance. It's no coincidence that Hemingway came from Oak Park. You're never a part of anything if you come from the Midwest, because its attitude is basically Fundamentalist. All these Fundamentalist religions say there is nobody can save you but you! Whereas the Eastern area is another story. There's a large Yiddish background. They say, "We're all together and there's a promised land for all of us." There's a great sense of togetherness among Jews. There isn't among the Baptists. Whit: Were you born in Chicago? School there? High School? Shep: I went to high school at Hammond High, which is a part of Chicago. Whit: Then what? Shep: I went into the army at 17, almost immediately in 1942. I was in the Signal Corps for four years. Whtt: Overseas? Shep: Yes, I was attached to the air force. But the thing that happened is, you see, the only ambition I had was to get to be something in the mill like a metallurgist or an electrician - in the steel mill - then I found out there was a world out there! When I came back from the army I felt a terrific restlessness and frustration. I went back to the steel mill in the summer and I would walk around. I worked in a tin mill, and for the first time in my life the mill seemed to be a gigantic monster. I worked at Inland Steel and at Youngstown Steel in Indiana, but I had this terrific frustration, although I couldn't pin-point it. All I knew was I was unhappy. So I went to school and majored in psychology and finished. The normal thing for a guy to do who goes to school out there is start work at Standard Oil, so I went to Goodman Dramatic School in Chicago. But I didn't feel right there either, so I started in radio and I got interested in it. I began to find you could really say things by using silences and inflections, in other words, do shows the way a novelist would write. By the way, James Joyce in 1926 made a remark that the final medium for the novelist could be the radio - not to read his works but to create them right on the radio. Whit: Is this what you do? Shep: Did you ever read Montaigne? Whit: Not enough to say I did. Shep: Well, Montaigne said that - he developed the essay, you know - the good essay begins with the specific and then moves into the general and from there into the metaphysical or the cosmic that brings all of us in, or so Huxley says in a preface to Montaigne. Then he went on that most essayists today stop at the first or second point. They'll do an essay on stamps, say, and that's the end of it, and then they might go a little further on stamps in general. Did you know that I did a show on stamps? Whit: How? Shep: That stamps today show the real fears. We have stamps that have slogans on them like "Freedom is for Everybody," no kidding; there is one that says: "Freedom is the God-given right of all good men" and signed "Benjamin Franklin, U.S. postage 4 cents," and then over it is the cancellation mark that says: "Please report obscene mail to your postmaster." Well, anyway, the stamps show a country's status in the world, but in reverse. You find that the important countries have little bitty lousy stamps, like Britain. They're not worried about their status, they know they're Englishmen. In the days when America was convinced it was the biggest and best it had little bitty stamps. Just a picture of George Washington, 3 cents. Now we have-big stamps that show things like the Grand Coulee Dam with real wonderful people, Boy Scouts saluting and slogans. It's like Russia. Whit: What do you make of all this lunacy? Shep: It's not lunacy it's just us. Whit: We're not lunatics? Shep: No, we're people. Give people a chance to be what they really are and look out! Whit: What do you think about a movie like La Dolce Vita? Do you think we're decadent? Shep: Decadence lies all around us in a very real sense. But you see, we assume that what is decaying is bad. Not necessarily. It may be just change taking place. The earlier kind of morals and life rules, say the Ten Commandments, all this is decaying, the Christian religion, say. It has very little hold on people today, as say it did 100 years ago. Now, we're people in transition. We're close enough to the days when religion was real so we still have the knowledge of these things. But we are also living in a day when it isn't real. So when the young generation comes along they don't even remember. That's why many guys today can't even communicate with their sons. Whit: So you say there is really no such thing as decadence. Decadence is just a term we apply to change. Shep: That's right. I believe that. Whit: What about Gibbon and his idea of the Roman Empire's decay? Shep: He was discussing why the Roman Empire dissolved, but all empires dissolve in the end and that one went pretty well, it lasted over 1000 years. So I think they're a pretty' bad example to take as an empire that really failed. Name one that lasted longer. Whit: All right. The Egyptian Empire. Shep: They weren't an empire, they were localized. To have a true empire you've got to have control over other peoples. Whit: You get a lot of mail, Shep. What do you think of the American people's intelligence? Is it low? Shep: Well, I think it is low, but I don't think our perception is low. There are two different things here. Twenty-five years ago a guy could have seen La Dolce Vita with total incomprehension, but the same guy looking at that today, even if his intelligence is lower, recognizes something that rings a bell of truth with him. Look at me. I come on the air and a guy of no intelligence will listen to me and understand whatever I'm talking about. Whit: How do you know? Shep: By the amount of mail I get from people who can hardly write. Five years ago I got letters from guys like Thurber who understood what I was saying because they were thinking about things like that. Robert Osborne, the cartoonist, is an old fan of mine, and I hear from Ben Shahn, the artist, and from George S. Kaufman, the playwright, before he died. Whit: Why do you think all these different people understand you? Shep: You have to be fortunate enough to remain obscure for a certain part of your working years so you can develop a viewpoint, in other words mature. Take Sid Caesar, he made it when he was about 26 or 27 and he had no viewpoint yet! And the instant you make it you become so afraid of losing your public you're afraid to de-velop a viewpoint. Caesar couldn't deviate from the suburbanites. Believe me, Newhart is going to do the Lincoln bit until he dies. And it's very sad. Whit: What about Sahl? Shep: Have you ever listened to a Mort Sahl record two years later? It's meaningless. The things these guys deal with are momentary things. Now most people have the Madison Avenue gag up to here, nobody's interested anymore and any-way it's not true, but they're going to continue to work it. I'm always irritated when I hear these people called great social commentators. Now you take the Shakespeare line: "What fools we mortals be." Mort Sahl could never say that. For him it's: "What fools those mortals be." That's also true of Newhart and Feiffer. Once these guys start including themselves then they will become artists. Be-cause you see Voltaire was laughing at himself, too, all along. Whit: Are there many kids in your audience? Shep: Yes, as a matter of fact they're the biggest single element in my audience. The kids that listen are very intelligent kids. I think most of them are far ahead of kids in my day - the thinking kids, you know. It's amazing', the letters I get would do justice to James Reston, I'm serious. Whit: What do they say? Shep: Just incredible letters. Letters about social things, social conditions and about Art in general. Whether or not the teachers are aware that these kids are on to them, I don't know. Whit: What do you mean, "on to them"? Shep: Well, here's a kid sitting back, you know, who is deeply involved in wondering just when we're going to blow everything up and why, and he's listening to some clown up there who is firmly based in the mid-1930s saying everything is going to be all right as long as everybody has a job. I get these letters from kids all the time. I remember one said: "Shepherd, what am I going to do? My old man really likes Ike!" You know, the kids are always telling you, "My old man just sits there." One said his old man comes home, eats supper and goes in and watches television and "I'm up here listening to you fight the giant morality battle and the old man keeps hollering, 'For Christ's sake, will you turn that crap off! Why are you wasting your time listening to that nut?' " And the kid adds: "And I'm supposed to listen to this guy seriously?" I'm intrigued by the kids that write. Whit: Is this the general run of kids? Shep: Well, it's the general run I hear from. But I don't feel kids are different from any other group. Among the 16-year-olds you have the slobs, the anti-slobs, you got little agency men already burgeoning. The whole thing. Whit: What do you think of today's Organization Men? Shep: That's all of us. Whit: I don't have a boss and neither do you. Shep: No, but we're only free men in the sense that we have to find some Organization Man to buy our wares, so we're Organization Men, too. You have to go to Climax, loaded with Organization Men from top to bottom. I have to go to the radio Organization Men. Today radio is different. Whit: In what way? Shep: When I started all the top men in radio were guys who at one time had been programmed; you know, they were artistic guys with viewpoints, too. Today all the top guys in radio, even right here at this station, are business-men. In fact, we have a program director that has never been in the studio when a show was going on. He knows nothing whatever about the mechanics of doing a show. Whit: Well, how does he run things? How does he judge a show? Shep: His concept of what is good and bad comes from a rating service. He doesn't even have to see or hear it. He knows by looking at the numbers. He doesn't know who compiles these numbers, but he knows he pays money for it so it must be good. All his business is with the sales department. So far as him making decisions, forget it. The decisions are made by Neilson, so everybody's off the hook. Whit: Is this because people today are terrified of making a decision? Shep: Sure. It's the same reason why totalitarianism has always appealed to people. There isn't hardly a person on the street today who wouldn't say, "What we need is a strong president." Really what they mean is we need a dictator. Whit: Do they? Shep: A lot of people are disappointed with Kennedy because he hasn't been stronger and fought Congress harder to get his programs through. Isn't this a kind of dictator? Whit: I don't think so. Shep: It's one man's program. What was Hitler but one man with a pro-gram? He got it through the Reichstag, that's all. Whit: It's a little different when you own the Reichstag. Shep: Well, don't you think when a President gets all his people elected to the Senate he then owns the Senate? Whit: It doesn't work that way here. He can't get people elected. Shep: Don't be too sure of that. Whit: I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying' it never has happened. Shep: That's right. You know, Germany never had a Hitler before Hitler either. Whit: Come on now. Roosevelt was the strongest president we've had in a long time, and there's about as much comparison between Roosevelt and Hitler as there is between me and Joan Crawford. Shep: But my feeling is this. We have never had a dictator because we never really felt we needed one. But when a nation gets into real trouble every-body wants to get off the hook. It's like a company. When a company is in trouble they'll go out and hire a giant dictator to straighten it out in capital letters. Whit: You mean any kook who hap-pens to be willing to take the responsibility. Shep: Yes, they invariably do this. You read that recent article in Harper's? About what happens when magazines are in trouble? They go out and get some giant savior. He fires people, he does everything, he gets rid of all the dead weight - which is analogous to the dictator. He gets rid of this rotten program, he institutes this great pro-gram. His might even be a bad one - he might turn the magazine into a lousy one - somehow it would seem right to the people who were there. Fascinating. We were lucky. We were a country that came on the scene 350 years ago to the richest, untapped continent in the world. But it's 350 years later now and we aren't the richest un-tapped continent, as we know very well. So now Russia is the untapped country. And we're liable to find ourselves floundering around and doing fantastic things which we wouldn't have done 50 or 100 years ago. Whit: Well, I don't think it could happen. Shep: People continue in one line like a goddamned bowling ball. It's hard to change even if the pins are now in another alley. Fascinating. Whit: What do you think of women? Shep: They're fantastic? Whit: In what sense? Shep: I dig 'em! Whit: You mean God made men and women different for a reason, hey? Shep: Right, and the more we try and make them alike the more we fool around with good old God's will. Whit: What about the tremendous pressure today on kids to conform? Shep: Well, I don't know it's any different than it has been. It's being talked about more, but guys in the Victorian era were amazing conformists. They dressed a certain way, they sang the certain songs, they went to church. Conformity has always been. We're a herd animal. It's not a new principle. Conformity, for God's sake, was ram-pant 1000 years ago. It had to be. Whit: Do you believe in God? Shep: I don't know. It's a question that would be easy to answer yes or no, but I don't know. Whit: Do you go to church? Shep: No. Whit: Did you go at all when you were a kid? Shep: Not too much, no. Whit: Does this mean there are damn few churchgoers among your outsiders? Shep: To be a churchgoer you have to be inside. When you're a real church man you're inside in a cosmic sense. Like there is no such thing as a Catholic outsider, by definition. Whit: Why not? Shep: Well, I think all strong religions are that way. I think Communism is a strong religion. The only way a guy could go is to go out completely, because he has discovered the false premise that all the didactic arguments are based on. If you get into an argument with a Catholic theologian you will find he ducks basic issues, but he will argue the structure. A good example is the Jesuit priest who recommended to people that if their fallout shelter is being threatened by - as he put it - aggressors, then you are in your rights to shoot them. He never called them friends, they were aggressors, not neighbors but outsiders. So it was interesting he was able to completely transcend one of the basic Ten Commandments - Thou Shalt Not Kill. It doesn't say if, when, or, but or how. He was arguing structure. Whit: We better get off this. Shep: Did you see the David Susskind show the other night? He had the writer Leo Rosten on, and Rosten said some-thing I've believed for a real long time. Whit: What? Shep: The only reason he's writing, I'm writing, you're writing, is because we want to be understood as people. Whit: Why do you want to be understood? Shep: Oh, probably because I'm an egomaniac. Whit: Anything else? Shep: Yes, do you know there are houses in this town with picture windows looking out onto air shafts? Isn't that great? Whit: No. Shep: Do you know that in fallout shelters they are building window boxes with pictures of the countryside? With a light that looks like sun. Are you aware of this? Western Electric has just come out with a lamp that makes it look as if there's a scene outside. Whit: You're putting me on. Shep: I'm not putting you on. I'm telling you a fact. Whit: And they sell these things? Shep: They're selling them by the thousands for the fallout shelters. Here's a guy who's 20 feet under and he still wants to pretend that the out-side world is right there. Does this tell you anything about us? Whit: I don't know what it's telling me. Shep: Did you know that almost all cigars are wrapped in cellophane? Whit: Hell, yes. Everybody knows that. Shep: Well, why don't they wrap them in black paper? They could wrap them in tin foil. Whit: I always heard cellophane was the cheapest way. Shep: Not necessarily
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