Jean Shepherd Meets the Press
Thursday - July 31, 1975
Last Update: 05-20-2020
The purpose of the Wednesday luncheon was to introduce radio and TV humorist Jean Shepherd to the Hartford news media.
Bat by midmeal the discussion was philosophical, because that is the way Shepherd is, even when being funny. The topic was Shepherd's contention that Americans mistake show business fantasy for reality.
Shepherd paused over his steak, which he had hardly touched, and told about a billboard be saw in New Jersey.
"It said 'Get More Out of Life - Go to a movie'." He took off his glasses and seemed genuinely aghast. "Fantastic. Imagine it. 'Get More Out of Life - Go to a Movie.' Spinoza couldn't have done better" be chuckled.
"When you start believing that show business has any relation to life, you're making a profound mistake."
He told several anecdotes about the mistaken notions his fans have about him because of the seemingly offhand, breezy way be spins out stories on his daily 45-minute radio show and his Tuesday night television show, "Jean Shepherd's America," seen on Connecticut Public Television.
Many people seem to feel be just drops in at the radio studio on his free time to chat. One fan confided that he had discovered where Shepherd really worked - at Bloomingdale's Department Store.
"They're shocked to know that I own an airplane or that my salary for the past 15 years has been in six figures," he said.
He spends three hours each night getting into the right frame of mind to "ad lib" his amusing, greatly embellished personal recollections, he said. It took 12 years to perfect the story of his first blind date, when he suddenly realized, with the "white light of truth," that HE was the blind date, not the girl.
Shepherd is a substantially built, but not fat, man who had his 52nd birthday last Saturday. He has shaggy, thinning hair and dressed in a blue denim suit and tennis shoes. His blue checked shirt was open at the neck to reveal a tiny gold hand on a gold chain, with two fingers of the hand extended in the Sicilian fashion of warding off a curse.
He takes his humor seriously and draws a sharp distinction between a humorist - which he considers himself - and a comic.
A comic tells jokes about Nixon, he said, while a humorist comments in a funny way about "all of us who voted for Nixon."
In general, said Shepherd, "humor comes out of failure and anger at failure." Nevertheless, he said, his own drive comes from "cosmic disillusionment," not anger.
Shifting subjects, Shepherd said Americans lack the perspective and realism of other cultures. Hie relative youth of the United States and its tremendous size and natural resources have contributed to making Americans unduly Utopian, puritanical and idealistic.
In contrast, he said, the French have lived with wars and corruption for centuries. "That's why they create existentialism and we create Norman Vincent Peale - go to church and buy the Readers Digest and everything will be all right." ||
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