WHO IS THAT GUY?
Continuing bits from EYF!
[page 12] …Shep was at least three people.
First there was a real Jean Parker Shepherd that an ideal biography would uncover in an ideal world—an accurate, historical Jean Shepherd, not found in this book or anywhere, in part because throughout his professional life he hid this truth and confounded the attempts of others to discover it. Therefore, this is not a straight biography of Jean Shepherd. Yet biography is only a grasping at an entertaining and probable hunch—especially unreliable if combined with an attempt to analyze a creator through comparison with the creator’s work. Even more perilous when trying to understand the slippery relationship between truth and fiction, as they interweave in what Shepherd gave as his life story. Some biographical information is included for comparison and contrast. The comparisons are interesting and the contrasts can be devastating.
Along with that first, biographically based Shepherd, the second and third Sheps, crafted by Jean Shepherd, artist and fabulist, are ones you will find and know in Excelsior, You Fathead! The second Shep persona was the storyteller who artfully conflated bits of the true Shepherd into the concocted biography of his life (“I was this kid, see…”). The third was the Shep who spoke on the radio, the perceived here-and-now Shep, whom his listeners knew, giving real ideas and perceptions through his on-air persona.
[page 13] Gerald Nachman’s Seriously Funny, a study of over two dozen “Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s,” describes Shepherd on the air: “The bemused voice, whether chortling slyly or in full maniacal cry, was by turns self-mocking, seductive, manic, querulous, and reflective. There were digressions, footnotes, parenthetical jokes, random observations, and stories within stories, augmented by an occasional sound effect or snatch of music.”
As for what I attempted in my book, and indicating that it is not a biography:
[page 14] It documents and describes what he produced in many media, and it is an appreciation and analysis of what he accomplished. And, importantly, it attempts to impart to the reader some measure of the great pleasure Shepherd’s art gave to his audiences.
Note that, for those wondering about the sequence of chapters, I include at the end of each chapter a segue toward the following chapter. And at the beginning of each Part of the book, I indicate what it’s going to be about.
More parts to come.
(23) INTESTINAL DISTRESS
Some TV commercials are entertaining—so much so, in fact, that I forget all about what the production advertises. Recently I’ve seen a great one a few times. One that receives my imaginary Charlie Award* for best idea, best script, best director, best actress. It’s about curing gas and diarrhea. (http://www.viberzi.com/what.) It’s the kind of gross health subject that I avoid on television as much as I can. I watch this one with no sound, concentrating on the sheer comedic, quirky brilliance of the actress. Stills do not do justice to her goofy movements and expressions. (The white artwork on her midsection is a stylized graphic of an intestine.) While being thoroughly delightful in her body-stocking nakedness, she does a great job being an unseriously distressing intestine.
C H A R L I E A W A R D
R E C I P I E N T
She explains that she is in charge of your body; she does a cute little drumming on head and back with pencils; she has fun on a bicycle built for two; she does a goofy walk down the street; when the medicine works, she happily gazes at the patient and the patent’s date. She’s lots of fun to be with.
*“Charlie Award“= Charles Spencer Chaplin Award
(aka: “I Wish I Could Be As Wacky & Creative As This ‘Charlie Award’ Winner.”)