July 26, 1921-October 16, 1999
The strip above, a tribute to Jean Shepherd done soon after he died, is from “Zippy the Pinhead” by Bill Griffith. The original published strip, of January 9, 2000, is without color. (Click this colored one to enlarge.) This reproduction is from the Zippy website, showing the hand-colored version that can be bought (www.zippythepinhead.com). Griffith is a big fan of Shepherd’s and he gave free permission for me to reproduce its original black and white form in my Excelsior, You Fathead! It is a perfect ending for the series of illustrations in the book. My caption for it is: “….This strip testifies to the importance of Shepherd’s work for many creative people as well as for his legions of devoted fans, many of whom stayed awake listening, long after bedtime, captivated by Shepherd’s voice in the night.”
In the Internet site: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=18342, interviewed by Alex Dueben, Griffith says, “My comedy influences came from people like Lenny Bruce and Jean Shepherd. Also, I like to think of Harvey Kurzman [of Mad Magazine] as a humorist as much as a cartoonist. His ‘voice,’ his cadence, are still a big influence. And then there are my favorites from fifties TV: Phil Silvers (“Sgt. Bilko), Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Jonathan Winters, and especially Ernie Kovaks. Woody Allen, too. And that one-of-a-kind hipster, Lord Buckley.”
“Zippy the Pinhead” is a surrealistic, unpredictable, wild commentary on human nature, commercialism, and society in general. It illustrates how, out of the mouths of innocents (such as Zippy), often comes a kind of wacky sense. I highly recommend it–in the newspaper strips and in compilations gathered into books.
In another interview, by Gary Panter, Griffith says, “My eccentricities and non-sequitors just seem to come naturally.”
The above comments indeed suggest a sometimes close similarity to Jean Shepherd’s form and mindset, as do the descriptions below. These two descriptions are from Griffith’s Zippy website. Both, though they seem contradictory, mostly describe Shepherd himself.
ZIPPY THE PINHEAD =Zippy. GRIFFY=Bill Griffith.
The well-known and often-used comment shown below,
is, unbeknownst to most people,
an original Zippy-ism!
Shepherd, though he
might have seemed to be
frequently engaged in irony and negativity,
at the same time insisted that, in our lives, we have fun.
Jean Parker Shepherd, you commented in 1975 that, “Can you imagine 4,000 years passing, and you’re not even a memory? Think about it, friends. It’s not just a possibility. It is a certainty.” Nearly 40 years later, more immortal than most people (including your comic contemporaries), your memory in people’s minds and in the media is still alive and well. Not just the memory of what you did, but the influence you had on the lives and works of so many of us.