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Humorist a Master of Commercials
Airdate: Thursday - February 22, 1973

Last Update: 03-19-2017

Show Description
NEW YORK - Jean Shepherd ha a gentleman's paunch and a lopsided mustache that looks like a horseshoe with one leg stuck in the salt. For 10 or 15 years he has been American youth's favorite humorist, story-teller and accidental guru, devotion to him being for many a genuine rite of passage. There is a familiar scenario to it: the 18 year-old suburban couple in dad's car with a pizza and a bottle of Beaujolais, parked on some scenic spot listening to Shepherd's nightly syndicated radio show and feeling in-touch, aware - well, hip - at least more so than those creeps down at MacDonald's. Shepherd has made so many converts in his years that now and then it bounces back on him. "I got into this cab one night and as soon as I opened my mouth the driver recognized me," Shepherd says. "You're Jean Shepherd," the driver yelled. "You made me crazy, you made me hip! Look at this," he waved his hair at me and shouted, "I'd be married and have four kids by now if I'd never heard your show!" Shepherd's monologues, mostly about his childhood in Hammond, Ind., but also about Army life and issues of the day, are carried on about 40 radio stations. His public TV series, "Jean Shepherd's America," was seen on 200 stations. He writes for such diverse publications as "Playboy" and "Car & Driver," and just recently published a third book of stories, "The Ferarri in the Bedroom," with Dodd Mead & Co. Yet, this evening Shepherd is discussing neither monologues nor his effect on his audiences, but commercials. Within the past year, Shepherd has emerged as an unheralded master of the radio and TV spot. He hasn't heard the accolades that accompanied the Spicy Meatball of the famous "I ate the whole thing" spot, but he has produced, in the tiny gulps of airtime allotted to commercials, some stunning pieces of Americana. Most of these are for Alka-Seltzer, for whome he has done more than 30 radio spots. One concerns the need for relief of a distraught lady who is just setting the Thanksgiving table and discovers that her husband left the turkey on the "A" train. "It's on its way to Queens," Shepherd shouts. Another concerns a gut who is marrying an Italian girl and sits down to the wedding meal. "Seven courses later, with 15 more to go, he's trying to get the dog off the couch so he can lie down," Shepherd says. In the background you can hear someone yelling. "Whatsa matter with Herman?" But the best is Stanly J. Zudok, the hockey nut. Shepherd mimics a sportscaster in Madison Square Garden watching Stanley, who has consumed four quarts of root beer, seven egg rolls, six hot dogs, a slice of pizza and a pickle, only to find out that he left his Alka-Seltzer home on top of the TV. One of the things which makes these unique is that Shepherd writes and performs them himself, whereas most actors in commercials read someone else's copy. According to Shepherd, it is yet another advance in the increasing creativity of commercials. "I would like to see a one-hour special made of commercials run back-to-back," Shepherd says. "It would be one of the greatest true movies of our time. It would be revered in a hundred years, because it would show the unique fears of our time. What are our fears? Not alienation, not loneliness, not nuclear holocaust. We're afraid of something bad, of being too fat and going bald! There are 4,000 products for the hair! That's how you tell what people are thinking. Look at what they buy."
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Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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