Home » Comments about Shep » JEAN SHEPHERD-Talk Radio and Playing a Part (2)

JEAN SHEPHERD-Talk Radio and Playing a Part (2)


Continuing about talk radio and truth/fiction below in bold and indented text, Frank Rich discusses the relationship between the real performer and the seemingly real persona he/she acts out in performance.

Note the subtitle of Frank Rich’s piece:


To Play Oneself May be the Greatest Illusion of All

[bold text by Frank Rich]


lily tomlin

talkradio cover

Lily Tomlin, Eric Bogosian

When Lily Tomlin and Eric Bogosian are not inhabiting any of the many fictional personae they create during the course of their solo recitals, are they Lily Tomlin and Eric Bogosian?….The clothes tell us that Ms. Tomlin and Mr. Bogosian are humble players when they are not metamorphosing into bag people or addled hipsters. But one wonders if the truth is so simple. Might not ”Lily Tomlin” and ”Eric Bogosian” be manufactured roles – masks as cleverly designed as the other characterizations the performers assume during their entertainments?


[Penn and Teller] do not present themselves as magicians or clowns – but as two regular fellows named Penn Jillette and Teller. Yet it’s immediately apparent that we are not seeing Penn and Teller, but characters who share the names of the performers. We know that, in real life, Penn could not be as persistently hostile and aggressive as the on-stage ”Penn”; we know that Teller, unlike the mute ”Teller,” does not go through his daily routine playing dumb….As a result, the theatrical payoff of ”Penn & Teller” [proves to be] the quiet moment when ”Penn” sits down to tell us the autobiographical story of how he first fell in love with the circus and its magicians, then hooked up with Teller and began his career. For a moment ”Penn” has become the real Penn….


In his recent performance, ”Mistero Buffo,” the Italian performer and playwright Dario Fo presented himself, somewhat as Ms. Tomlin and Mr. Bogosian do, as a folksy inheritor of the commedia tradition, portraying comic types who stand in sharp relief to the unassuming performer Dario Fo. ….one couldn’t help feeling that Dario Fo had also become a character: ”Dario Fo,” international star and controversial political iconoclast.

spalding g

[Spalding Gray] makes no attempt to impersonate any fictional stage characters whatsoever. Instead, he sits at a table, looking like a sedentary teaching assistant in a large university course, and reminisces about his own life in a manner that suggests a Yankee answer to New York radio’s longtime memoirist, Jean Shepherd.

What makes Spalding Gray so theatrical in his seemingly nontheatrical way is not only his talent as a storyteller and social observer but also his ability to deepen the mystery of the demarcation line between performer and role. His disciplined, scripted recital leaves us uncertain where Spalding Gray leaves off and ”Spalding Gray,”…begins.


[We know that Penn Jillette is a Shep enthusiast; is Frank Rich?

and what of others Rich mentions?]


Where does Jean Shepherd leave off and

“Jean Shepherd” begin?

Stay tuned for PART 3.



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