Author Topic: Tom v. Jean Shepherd  (Read 5558 times)

scratchbomb

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Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« on: March 11, 2009, 10:26:30 PM »
Just got through the Am I Right? interview with Tom. I was somewhat surprised to hear one of the hosts bring up Jean Shepherd as a potential influence on Tom, and slightly more surprised to hear him dismiss it as "old garbage" (or something to that effect).

Maybe it's just me wanting someone I dig to like something else I dig, but I like Jean Shepherd's radio show a lot, and see some spiritual similarities between his work and Tom's. It's hard to put my finger on it, I just feel like they share some wavelengths, if that makes any sense.

And if you only know Jean Shepherd from A Christmas Story, all I can say is his radio show was much darker, funnier, weirder, angrier, and philosophical than the film that made him sorta famous.

Anyway, I figured there were probably some other FOTs out there who like Shep's radio work and might feel similarly. Any thoughts?
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nec13

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009, 03:23:42 PM »
I'll admit that I know very little of Jean Shepherd outside of "A Christmas Story." I haven't heard much of his radio work either. But I do know that he is held in high esteem by a lot of people both in and outside of radio. So I kind of had the same reaction as you did when I heard that interview. It seems like Tom doesn't care for his work and that's fine. But to call it "old garbage" is kind of disrespectful. Maybe Tom was being facetious when he said that, because from what I've read of Shepherd it does seem like there are some similarities between Shepherd's radio show and The Best Show.
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scratchbomb

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2009, 04:20:26 PM »
I'll admit that I know very little of Jean Shepherd outside of "A Christmas Story." I haven't heard much of his radio work either. But I do know that he is held in high esteem by a lot of people both in and outside of radio. So I kind of had the same reaction as you did when I heard that interview. It seems like Tom doesn't care for his work and that's fine. But to call it "old garbage" is kind of disrespectful. Maybe Tom was being facetious when he said that, because from what I've read of Shepherd it does seem like there are some similarities between Shepherd's radio show and The Best Show.

Yeah, I think he was probably being at least a little facetious, or at least hyperbolic. I got the impression it was more like, "Just because I'm on the radio, don't think I wanna delve into every old timey radio thing out there."

I definitely recommend checking him out. There's a podcast called The Brass Figlagee which posts his old shows.

http://shepcast.blogspot.com/

Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of shows available for download via that podcast, so it's a bit daunting if you don't know where to start. I'd steer clear of anything from the 70s, when Shep started to coast and get a tad bitter (as opposed to his later years, when he was extremely bitter).

The stuff from the 1960s is almost all good, except for some of his live shows, which could be a bit grating (he really played to the rafters when doing live shows, not sure why).

I'll try and post some stuff that's representative of his best work if I can. Harry Shearer hosted an NPR tribute to him a few years back called "A Voice in the Night" that was pretty amazing, and a good overview of his radio career.
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nec13

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2009, 04:28:53 PM »
Thanks, I'll have to check that out. Did you ever read that book on Jean Shepherd called "Excelsior, You Fathead!" that came out a few years back? One day at Borders, I got about a third of the way through that book. He seemed like a fascinating character.
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scratchbomb

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2009, 04:48:34 PM »
Thanks, I'll have to check that out. Did you ever read that book on Jean Shepherd called "Excelsior, You Fathead!" that came out a few years back? One day at Borders, I got about a third of the way through that book. He seemed like a fascinating character.

Actually, I worked on that book when I worked at that publisher, and did some research for it. He was a fascinating guy, and also kind of sad. It was hard to find anyone who knew him who cared to be interviewed. Guy burned a lot of bridges in his day.
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gravy boat

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2009, 06:19:39 PM »
Never heard of this guy but you guys have piqued my interest. From this off his wiki page, he sounds like a Good Guy:  "When he was about to be released by WOR in 1956 for not being commercial, he did a commercial for Sweetheart Soap, not a sponsor, and was immediately fired."

scratchbomb

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2009, 08:33:18 PM »
Never heard of this guy but you guys have piqued my interest. From this off his wiki page, he sounds like a Good Guy:  "When he was about to be released by WOR in 1956 for not being commercial, he did a commercial for Sweetheart Soap, not a sponsor, and was immediately fired."

Yes, and his fans actually rallied for him downtown at the Wanamaker Building to get him back on the air. Weird, crazy incident. If you did that nowadays, you'd probably never work again.

In his early days, he was quite fond of stunts like this. He used to do something called "hurling invective", where he told all his listeners to put their radios in their windows, turn them all the way up, and he would yell something on their behalf.

He also used his listeners to come up with the plot to an imaginary book called "I Libertine" and have the book and its imaginary author mentioned in all variety of media, eventually winding up on a few best seller lists despite the fact that it didn't exist.
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JustSheaNo

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2009, 08:47:24 PM »
Never heard of this guy but you guys have piqued my interest. From this off his wiki page, he sounds like a
Good Guy:  "When he was about to be released by WOR in 1956 for not being commercial, he did a commercial for Sweetheart Soap, not a sponsor, and was immediately fired."

...
He also used his listeners to come up with the plot to an imaginary book called "I Libertine" and have the book and its imaginary author mentioned in all variety of media, eventually winding up on a few best seller lists despite the fact that it didn't exist.


The Story of  I, Libertine on WFMU's blog.
http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2008/06/the-i-libertine.html

ShawnFromUtah

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2009, 11:09:15 PM »
I think a lot of people who initially make the comparison do so because of the similarity in their voices (working class accents, etc.) but I think one could also compare the absurdist style of their free-form rants and storytelling, the constructed imaginary characters and neighborhoods of their bits, and the definite sense of upstanding "morality" that they both defend in their work. I don't know if that makes sense, but I feel like both Shep and Tom have a kind of "good guys win" straight-shooting populism in their on-air persona.

As a fan of both, and of their brand of anarchic radio play as an artform, I would consider the comparison to be a positive one.
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scratchbomb

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2009, 09:18:44 AM »
I think a lot of people who initially make the comparison do so because of the similarity in their voices (working class accents, etc.) but I think one could also compare the absurdist style of their free-form rants and storytelling, the constructed imaginary characters and neighborhoods of their bits, and the definite sense of upstanding "morality" that they both defend in their work. I don't know if that makes sense, but I feel like both Shep and Tom have a kind of "good guys win" straight-shooting populism in their on-air persona.

As a fan of both, and of their brand of anarchic radio play as an artform, I would consider the comparison to be a positive one.

I think that's a good assessment. Also, I think both Shep's show and The Best Show award the patient listener. Just like Tom can take his time developing a bit, or a story, or talking to callers, Shep could do the same thing with his own stories or rants because he was on radio in a totally different era, where he would literally do one commercial during a 45-minute show (and usually make fun of said commercial). 
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Jake from Memphis

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2009, 01:10:08 PM »
I am certainly a fan of both (I prefer Tom of course), but for some reason that made it particularly funny for me when Tom said "I can't listen to that old junk."

Tom Scharpling

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2009, 01:40:12 PM »
I was joking. I am not very knowledgeable at all about Jean Shepherd, but I do not have anything against him.

At this point though, shouldn't Jean Shepherd be listening to me? What has he done lately?

Tom.

fonpr

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2009, 01:56:23 PM »
I was joking. I am not very knowledgeable at all about Jean Shepherd, but I do not have anything against him.

At this point though, shouldn't Jean Shepherd be listening to me? What has he done lately?

Tom.

Yeah, he should be listening, but he's dead!

Just like Mad Dog Lassiter.

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todd

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2009, 03:41:15 PM »
I don't know Jean Shepherd either, but the way you guys describe him sounds interesting.

But in defense of people against old timey garbage: 9 times out of 10, when someone tells me to check out some SUPER EDGY comedian from the 40s, not only is it painfully unfunny, but i get the impression that the person recommending them to me hasn't even listened.

scratchbomb

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Re: Tom v. Jean Shepherd
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2009, 03:47:36 PM »
I was joking. I am not very knowledgeable at all about Jean Shepherd, but I do not have anything against him.

At this point though, shouldn't Jean Shepherd be listening to me? What has he done lately?

Tom.

I kinda figured as much. And I would totally recommend you to Shep, if he were only alive to receive recommendations.

Him and Bob & Ray were on WOR in the early 70s and were kinda tight back then, if that means anything.

There's a lot of Shep stuff out there online to listen to, although there's so much of it, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. As I said above, once the 70s rolled around, he got involved in a lot of stuff outside radio and seemed to buy into his own press way too much. But I'd be happy to post or burn some stuff for you--or anyone else on the board--if you have any interest.
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