Shari Lewis brings her children's
show to Meadow Brook.
SUZANNE CHESSLER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
entriloquist and puppeteer Shari Lewis cele-
brates diversity in her live concerts, TV shows,
videos, recordings and books. In the process,
she celebrates her own Jewish background.
"I do a great deal of multicultural mater-
ial," said the children's entertainer, who is
bringing her well-known sidekicks Lamb
Chop, Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy to the
Meadow Brook Music Festival 7 p.m. Thurs-
day, Aug. 31.
"Members of my family were chased out of
Russia by the czar's soldiers so I think the
right to be different is quite the most impor-
tant right. It is part of our culture and some-
thing we still have to fight for."
The star of the PBS show "Lamb Chop's
Play-Along," which is broadcast locally at
noon weekdays on Channel 56, fills her shows
with audience participation. She travels with
her own band because of her specialty musi-
"My show is really for the entire family,"
said the entertainer, whose career spans 40
years. "There will be a lot of comedy the
adults will enjoy."
Ms. Lewis is the winner of 11 Emmys, a
Peabody Award and seven Parents' Choice
Awards. Her mother, Ann Hurwitz, was a
music coordinator for the New York City
Board of Education, and began Ms. Lewis'
piano instruction at age 2.
Her father, Abraham Hurwitz, was a
Yeshiva University education professor and
New York's "official magician" as named by
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Her father en-
couraged her ventriloquism.
Ms. Lewis, 61, studied piano and violin at
New York's High School of Music and Art,
dance at the American School of Ballet and
acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
Her break came in 1952, when she won
the "Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts" TV-show
competition. Five years later, she introduced
Lamb Chop on the "Captain Kangaroo Show,"
which led to the development of her own tele-
Her approach has been updated for the
1990s, moving from a format that children
would sit back and watch to a format that
children would get up and join. Her early for-
mat had to change as well.
"When I was 17, I was doing a show where
I performed in between cartoons," she said.
"I had never seen them because I was always
busy preparing for my next number.
"One day, my mother said to me that I re-
ally couldn't continue to have those cartoons.
She said in one an Irish cat ties a Jewish fish
to a log, and as the log is being pushed to-
ward the sawmill, the Irish cat is laughing
and the Jewish fish is crying.
"I went to the station manager and said I
really couldn't have them on my show. He
said I was right and then fired me. I got my-
self another job on another channel, and it
made me aware that simply complaining is
not enough. There has to be a positive way
In her quest for the positive, Ms. Lewis is
bringing the Chanukah experience to non-
Jewish families through a TV program to be
aired Dec. 11 on PBS — "Lamb Chop's Spe-
cial Chanukah." Sitcom star Alan Thicke is
one of the guests.
"I first went to my non-Jewish friends as
guests because I want to introduce this fam-
ily holiday to the entire community and let
non-Jews know it is OK to watch this," she
said. Ms. Lewis is the author of the children's
book One-Minute Jewish Stories, which has
an introduction chronicling her childhood re-
"When I called Alan, he said, 'What am I
going to do on a Chanukah show? I'm not
Jewish.' I said, 'Alan, you go to birthday par-
ties when it's not your birthday so come and
"In the course of the story told through mu-
sical comedy, I introduce the history, tradi-
tions, foods and songs. In song, I do the entire
making of potato latkes. It's the best number
in the show. I just love it!"
When the versatile artist has time to watch
TV, she liked the recently canceled "North-
ern Exposure" because it captured the in-
terrelationships of people who are not forced
into a mold but are forced to learn to live
peacefully together due to the environment
When it comes to children's programs, she
has strong concerns about the rampant vio-
lence, especially as it affects preschoolers.
"Children don't understand the reality of
what they're seeing when they're watching
television," said Ms. Lewis.
"They don't know that when they're watch-
ing me I can't see them. I had a child come
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