Home » Army Life and Stories » JEAN SHEPHERD-Army stories funny or not? Part 1 of 2 & (9) ARTSY–Picasso

JEAN SHEPHERD-Army stories funny or not? Part 1 of 2 & (9) ARTSY–Picasso


Is my book SHEP’S ARMY—BUMMERS, BLISTERS, AND BOONDOGGLES mostly funny or something else? Some people have commented that there are many negatively-focused stories. To me, despite some downers, they’ve seemed funny. I decided to do a self-survey of the stories and grade them myself, in order of their sequence in the book, giving each a very short description. Remember that no matter how negative a story is, Shep’s approach, in telling, usually has a feeling one might call witty or funny or humorous–maybe entertaining in a humorous way.



“Induction” Disappointment—he expects a patriotic ceremony NEGATIVELY FOCUSED

“Shorn”  Outrage at being shorn of his “ducktail”– ego  NEGATIVELY FOCUSED YET IRONICALLY FUNNY

“D is for Druid”  He fakes-out the authorities regarding his religion FUNNY

“Being Orientated”  Disparaging, with Broken Illusions NEGATIVELY FOCUSED

“Army Phraseology”  He encounters soldiers’ wild vocabulary FUNNY


“Shermy the Wormy” He and his fellows are very cruel NEGATIVELY FOCUSED

“GI Glasses”  He can’t see out of army glasses. Authorities are incompetent NEGATIVELY FOCUSED & FUNNY

“Lieutenant George L. Cherry Takes Charge” Disparaging authority NEGATIVELY FOCUSED & FUNNY

“Pole Climbing” Sad/frightening description of pole-climbing danger NEGATIVELY FOCUSED

“Service Club Virtuoso” A “folk” piano player NEGATIVELY FOCUSED & FUNNY

“Fourth of July in the Army”   He describes an army parade PATRIOTIFUNNY

“USO and a Family Invitation” He’s given a sexual treat  FUNNY

“Shipping Out” He leaves “Camp Swampy” for a tropical hell NEGATIVELY FOCUSED


“MOS: Radar Technician” He realizes that pole climbing is death-defying NEGATIVELY FOCUSED

“Radar at 15,000 Volts” Shep and fellow soldiers are afraid of radar equipment until someone plays a practical joke. FUNNY

“Swamp Radar” Military incompetence results in enormous loss of lives.  NEGATIVELY FOCUSED

“Night Maneuvers” Goofing off during night training DISPARAGING & FUNNY

“Lister Bag Attack” Soldier in need of anger management stabs water bag. SAD FUNNY

“Boredom Erupts” A fight over the meaning of “time” FUNNY

“Code School” Military incompetence results in code school students playing joke. DISPARAGING & FUNNY

“T/5” DESCRIPTIVE of his rank FUNNY

Stay tuned for part 2



artsyfratsy 10010(9) Picasso
ARTSY introPicasso

I am a fanatical enthusiast of Picasso’s work (No, I don’t like it all, and, give me a particular example to defend, I may fail miserably).

After the first 8 of my ARTSY FARTSY  essays, I got my first comment about them. Joe Fodor, in the facebook group, “I am a fan of Jean Shepherd,” said he appreciated my invention of the Guernica Coloring Kit. This stimulated me to add additional comments regarding a  coupla Artsy encounters with  “Picasso.” (Everybody must have encountered Picasso in one manner or another, but a couple of my connections are surely rare.)

Years ago, attending an exhibit of ceramics in a Spanish museum (I think it was in Madrid or Barcelona), I encountered a small plate propped upright in a glass case with a caption indicating that the drawing on it was by Picasso, titled “Abstraction.” As he virtually never did anything totally “abstract,” I studied it a bit–and realized that it must have seemed abstract to whoever described and installed the piece, because it was mounted upside down.

Visualizing it the other way around, I saw that it was a sketchy image of a man on a horse (Don Quixote?). I wrote a short note to that effect and slid it between the front panes of glass, in front of the piece, and went on my way. I trust that some museum person would eventually see my note and correct the error.

Some years later, attending the large, 1980 Picasso retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I encountered an etching of his with the wall label titled “image of the artist holding mask in center.” A quick glance told me that it was not a mask he held but a bellows camera. That night I wrote a note to the Museum and posted it regarding their error. The next time I visited the exhibit (I went five times), they’d corrected the wall label. (The catalog, published before the exhibition opened, retains the error.) I felt delighted that I had improved the content of this major Picasso exposition–if not the immemorial catalog.

ARTSY Picasso etching 20006

Illustration in my copy of the catalog

(Part of my Picasso collection.)

ARTSY icecream Picasso

A Baskin-Robbins

flavor of the month




  1. Tom says:

    Disparagement and negativity is what makes the army stories funny in my view. Even a genius like Shep couldn’t have gone too far with stories about benevolent sergeants, pleasant duties, and an efficiently run organization.

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