, also a writer
, and orchestra conductor
We all have many characters within us. The lucky
people are those who get a chance to be childish now and nurturing then and bold and vulnerable at other times. I just happen to have given them all names, and I talk to them.
Lewis, in a Wall Street Journal interview.
Born Shari Phyllis Hurwitz, she introduced the world to her puppet
s Lamb Chop
, Charlie Horse
, and Hush Puppy. Her father, Abraham Hurwitz was a Yeshiva University professor
and the official magician
of the New York
City Parks and Recreation
department. Her mother, Ann Hurwitz (nee Ritz) was a public school music teacher
and music coordinator for the New York City Board of Education
. She attended the High School
of Music and Art in New York, as well as the School of the American Ballet
, Columbia University
, and the Neighborhood Playhouse (where she studied acting under Sanford Meisner
). Married to Stan Lewis, divorced, and then publisher Jeremy Tarcher
Her break into show business came in 1952, when she won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout TV Show competition. 5 years later, she introduced Lamb Chop to the world on the Captain Kangaroo show. The Shari Lewis Show ran on NBC from 1960 to 1963, but even before then she had won 5 local Emmy awards for her shows in New York. When animation bumped live programs like hers from Saturday morning lineups, she moved to the nightclub and casino circuit in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. From 1968 to 1976, she had a weekly TV show on BBC-1. She would win 7 more Emmys in her lifetime, 5 consecutively for "Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series" for her series, Lamb Chop's Play-Along. Her sense of comic timing was always at its best in exchanges with Lamb Chop:
Lewis: How do you get nuts from a squirrel?
As an orchestra conductor, she has guest conducted with over 100 orchestras, including the national orchestras of the United States, Canada, and Japan. She wrote more than 60 children's books, and with her husband Tarcher, scripted the "Lights of Zetar" episode of Star Trek. She devoted much of her career to educational programs for children, not only through her books and performances, but serving on the National Board of Girl Scouts U.S.A., the International Board of Boy Scouts, and the International Reading Foundation, and the Los Angeles Zoo. In May 1993, she received an honorary doctorate in education from Hofstra University in New York. A breast cancer survivor, she died in 1998 of pneumonia while being treated for uterine cancer.
Lamb Chop: I don’t know. How do you get nuts from a squirrel?
Lewis: You say, "stick ‘em up!"
Lamb Chop: (no reaction)
Lewis roars with laughter.
Lamb Chop: You’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes.
Lewis: I thought it was hilarious. Your turn.
Lamb Chop: What animal can jump higher than a tree?
Lewis: I don’t know. What animal can jump higher than a tree?
Lamb Chop: Any animal. Trees can’t jump.
Lewis: (no reaction)
Lamb Chop howls with laughter.
Lewis: I thought you weren’t supposed to laugh at your own jokes.
Lamb Chop: You set me a bad example.