Here’s the agonizing truth. (Be aware that sometimes a taped show is rebroadcast at a later date—maybe when he is out of town or for some other just cause, and at least once, a significant tape is chosen to fit an occasion.) Most dramatically and sadly, he chooses his broadcast tape of April 1, 1968—April Fool’s Day in sixth grade—to stand in metaphorically, after twenty-two years with the station, for his final WOR broadcast, on April Fool’s Day of 1977. Shepherd and several other long-time radio talkers on WOR are asked to leave because of management’s change in programming philosophy. The week before, Shepherd tells his listeners of his imminent departure and claims that he has chosen to devote more time to his many other creative projects, saying that the decision is his alone, not connected to WOR’s new policy.
This is somewhat of an obfuscation regarding the whole truth—surely he would prefer to have chosen his departure totally on his own terms and at his own time. We’re told that he is furious about being dismissed. This hurts, and he will never forget and never forgive. WOR has been cruel to this broadcaster considered to be both supreme in his field and one of America’s great humorists.
Instead of the anguish of having to improvise for forty-five minutes and say goodbye on his last day, he chooses the old tape from 1968—a kid story. Surely he chooses it because of the description of cruelty perpetrated on him in sixth grade—a powerful metaphor for his present situation. Terminating his creative life on WOR, the rebroadcast of his kid story about being April-fooled by his friends ends:
“Humiliated before the entire world. They heard! I couldn’t figure out why they did it to me. Why did they do this to me? And we walked our separate ways.”
[A long pause before this recorded voice of Jean Shepherd ends
his last broadcast on WOR]
“April Fool’s Day.”