Over the years I’ve written two different plays about Shep. The short radio play (about 15 minutes) was in response to a radio station’s request for entries of short plays from the public. It was not broadcast. I reproduce it in a few parts.
The other one, an hour long, was presented on a small Long Island stage for two glorious performances some years ago. I’ll be posting that in many parts to come.
The two plays are rather different from each other–though related in my understanding of what Shepherd was all about (in public).
EXCELSIOR, A RADIO PLAY ABOUT JEAN SHEPHERD
Eugene B. Bergmann
JEAN SHEPHERD A performer/creator on radio
Time: The play takes place in the present
Place: A radio studio
Length: One act in about 15 minutes.
The play is a monolog for one male performer, using the conceit
of him reminiscing on the radio about his career.
SHEPHERD’S VOICE Okay, I’m ready. Is this mike on? (Sound of tapping on the microphone.) Are we rolling? Three, two, one. Take one. Jean Shepherd career retrospective capsule summary. (Pause. Voice is now pompous to the level of parody, with the sound of a standard professional announcer.) Now it’s time for Jean Shepherd, humorist— raconteur and wit—genius and first master of talk radio, who created a style—who influenced decades of comedians and radio talkers. Shepherd began talking—improvising on New York radio without a script—from one a. m. to five-thirty, five nights a week. His ability to connect with the minds and sensibilities of tens of thousands of listeners created a dedicated cult of “Night People” that included students and many leaders in the creative arts in 26 states, his programs syndicated and pirated elsewhere. For 21 years he tickled the better parts of intelligent minds.
SHEPHERD (His voice changes to that which he uses from now on. He is overly self-satisfied and proud.) Yes, folks, that was me. Let me introduce myself. I’m Jean Parker Shepherd. I’m an entertainer. I used to talk on radio. And this little gig here is just a one-shot deal—reminds me of what I used to do. For forty years, in addition to my radio broadcasts, I produced fine work in other fields. I’ve performed live at Carnegie Hall, Town Hall and I created that holiday favorite movie, A Christmas Story, in which the kid nearly shoots his eye out with his BB-gun present. Yeah, I’m the one who did that! And now, here I am, the one and only creator of talk radio, unparalleled creator in every damn field you can think of, Jean Shepherd! Hit it big, Herb!
(Music starts. It is a bright, bouncy tune begun with a fanfare.
It is Shepherd’s theme song, “Bahn Frei.” Boston Pops version. Available on CD.)