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Shepherd raps Madison Ave. approach to American life
Airdate: Friday - April 9, 1976

Last Update: 07-26-2020

Show Description
CORNING - Americans are too heavily influenced by the oceanic exploits of the Tidy Bowl man, promises of Preparation H, and the entire Madison Ave. approach to the American Dream. They've given us a distorted sense of reality. Jean Shepherd maintained in his comedic approach to the dilemma of the average American and the subliminal messages through the American commercial Thursday at Corning Community College. Americans accept the shotgun effect of unreality every commercial hands us, Shepherd said. Example: What would anyone really think if they walked into someone's bathroom and spied a toilet bowl full of blue water? "If each of us had the right kind of mind, the first thing you would think is someone in that family is in some kind of trouble! We used to get film lectures in the Army about that." Instead, the material is fed to persons with another type of mind, Shepherd explained - persons who read Reader's Digest. "It must be great to be able to read a article during lunch, 'My Life Began When They Told Me I Had Diabetes,' " Shepherd said. But the lady in the commercial looks down and sees the blue water. "Here's where the surrealism comes in," Shepherd pointed out. "She reaches over and takes off the top of the john and what does she see? In the john is a little three-inch man who's rowing a little rowboat." "Here's the true inspirational touch - he's wearing a yachting cap and there are three marimba players there, fantastic." "The next point is, what does she do about it? What would you do if today you go into the john and there is a three-inch high guy swimming around in the john? Would you ask him about the blue water? Here's where you (the consumer American) compare yourself against that." "You first instinct is - if there's a three-inch guy - you want to scream, run out of the room, or flush it. You notice she doesn't do that." Shepherd, hitting at the too frequently similar approach by Madison Ave., said this commercial is an example of the "classical, liberal attitude in America. The guy lives in a john, rows a rubber rowboat around. Don't mention it at all. That's his thing. . . " He wondered about the concept of the 20th century American persons 200 years from now will have if they unearth such ditties of the Tidy Bowl tale, or a Feenamint commercial where the 42-year-old father, a known nothing, is the typical American father with no purpose in life but to bring things home to the family. The unreality of the constant television bombardment, reflecting the current American mentality, Shepherd portrayed is absurd. Roads are never congested with traffic. Potholes don't exist. The typical American wife whips her long luxurious, streaked and shining hair about the car, while two beautiful, fun-filled children bounce merrily along in the back seat is the view of the "average" American. Then, like all good scripts, with a beginning, a problem, the anti-heroes and solution all coming in 58 seconds, emerges the problem. . . Like the soap opera - "one long case of amnesia - the problem arises quickly - acid indigestion, and the resulting cancellation of the family outing to the Little League game. Disaster. "We're a juvenarchy," Shepherd proposed. "First there was the patriarchy, then the matriarchy. Now the juvenarchy. You can't disappoint the kids." But everything is solved with Feenamint - and a longer, real version of the same commercial with touches of reality Shepherd had in his life - his family from Chicago's south side, in a used car, clanking through the challenge of Pothole heaven, his mother in curlers, two screaming kids in the back and a father unwilling to try anything but the second row seats to support the Chicago White Sox. "We're all products of commercialism," he said. "You," he continued, pointing to some collegians at the Commons, "think you are avoiding it. 'I am studying English Lit 2. I am above the average American. I have insight,' but at night you watch it - the Pontiac Starfires coming out, gleaming, and glistening, and you see Rex Harrison sitting in the front seat of an Aspen, saying 'it's unbelievable. . .' which it is." And it doesn't end until you have what Shepherd calls the "Aha Experience." Thats the moment you realize where you really are, where you're going. His came when he discovered what Little Orphan Annie was really selling in her Secret Circle Society, was Ovaltine. And that lesson, he said he learned at the tender age of nine. He was fortunate. Most people, he said, never have had that chance. You've got to realize where you're being channeled by commercialism without even realizing it, he said. His point was made with humor and a touch of profanity. Shepherd's nightly radio show on New York's WOR and his contributions to "Playboy," contributed to his fame. His program, "Jean Shepherd's America," for the public television system, is in its fourth showing.
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April 09,1976
The Star Gazette

Courtesy: Steve Glazer

Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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