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Summary

Shepherd on Television: Star Quality
Airdate: Thursday - December 1, 1960


Show Description
The reports of Jean Shepherd's death have been greatly exaggerated, not only is he not "the late humorist," as I once heard an announcer casually dub him before putting on one of his records, but he has a new television show (Fridays at 9 p.m., channel 9). Mr. Shepherd is interested by so many things, I wonder at his ever repeating himself. "When Shepherd talks about "fish-outs," says a fan of his, "you can see, feel, and smell them. Fish is a very difficult medium to work in." Then there's the story of his friend who go caught in a revolving door at Schrafft's while clad in an Easter Bunny costume. Or his analysis of Mantovani-type music as "The Barbarians Are At The Gates Waltz." Shepherd is a soft-sell humorist, an intelligent man who happens to be consistently funny. His versatility is that of a first-rate mind which is, in the best sense of the word, self-educated. I think that it's abundantly to his advantage that it's a Midwestern education, and that his background includes both Chicago's South Side and the hellishly hot cornfields of Indiana. This makes Shepherd's arena The WOrld; it also makes him a man caught between two worlds - a sort of Tonio Kroeger of the Midwest. CAN'T TOUCH HIM I don't think the ordinary sick humorists can touch Shepherd for versatility or depth; they are essentially commercial-minds-plus-one. I admire them, I enjoy them - but after all, what they really are is clever, Shepherd has the educated man's virtue of slowness, of taking time to reflect, and he does this in the process of his shows. Who else does this? Sahl? What he give you is some carefully honed, brilliant, blade-like stuff which he has worked out before-hand (and one always feelsnervously for him that he's afraid he may bomb). Shepherd is like a man quietly plumbing the depths of his own mind while sitting across from you at a party. It stays with you no longer,It starts your own mind off. One feels restored, an entire personality. Let us admit that Mr. Shepherd has an occasional hour when he talks to no one but himself. It is, I insist, a small penalty for listeners to pay; if fine artists were not first of all afraid of ever boring anyone, we'd never have any masterpieces. It's the leisurely pace of Shepherd's mind which produces both the brilliance and the boredom. Come to think of it, the closest comparison, rather than the sick comics, would be to the Steve Allen of the old days - when he had a short, local, night show, before he spread himself out to take on Sullivan. Like Allen too, Shepherd's good at interview and conversation - hiskicking around of the old days on radio with a WOR announcer (he's also on radio Saturdays and Sundays, just after noon) was one of the best things of this sort I've heard. Let's give him credit for not trimming his sails to suit anybody, but of sticking with his own style. BUCKLING KNEES One last remark: the first show seemed a bit slow, but that may have been because it was material I"ve already known and liked on the radio programs. On the other hand , the last little routine has gone clean out of my mind because he suddenly unleashed - for a twentieth of aa second, and apparently against his will - a 500 watt smile which ought to buckle female knees wherever WOR's signal is received. It was a grin a Kennedy could have been proud of, a vote getter if I ever saw one. I have met Mr. Shepherd briefly at a dimly lit party, and aboutall I ascertained was that he doesn't look like a road company Jason Robards, Jr., as his publicity makes out. On TV, damned if he doesn't have Star Quality.
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November 24,1960
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