The late radio raconteur Jean Shepherd was an influential voice in the night for a generation of East Coasters — among them Jerry Seinfeld and Keith Olbermann.
Seinfeld and Olbermann are headed to the Paley Center for Media in Gotham tonight to host a tribute to the master storyteller, who had a 21-year run in latenight on New York’s WOR-AM from 1956-77, among other radio gigs during his varied career.
Shepherd, who died in 1999, today is best known as the author of the stories that inspired filmmaker Bob Clark’s 1983 classic “A Christmas Story” (he also narrates the pic). But his prime milieu was radio, the perfect platform for his razor-sharp observational monologues.
“Shep,” as he was known to fans, could spin a 45-minute yarn out of his most recent cab ride, and in so doing comment with humor and insight into on the state of race and gender relations, politics, celebrity culture and other aspects of the human condition. He loved to bash his station and even his sponsors, to the delight of listeners.
“His show was a really interesting mix of high and low culture,” says Ron Simon, the Paley Center’s curator of TV and radio. “Ultimately, his shows tell us a lot of what it meant to be an American in his era.”
It took many months for Simon to arrange, but the stars finally aligned for Seinfeld and Olbermann to take part in an event that will feature a number of Shepherd’s former colleagues and his biographer, Eugene Bergmann.