DOC NYC 2023: Shari & Lamb Chop
For this year's DOC NYC festival, we got the opportunity to screen the documentary " Shari & Lamb Chop" based on the amazing career of Shari Lewis and her puppet "Lamb Chop" For those of a certain age group would remember Shari Lewis in the late 1950s to early 1960s as the first children's entertainment show on TV (predating Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street) and also being one of the few shows led by a woman. For the younger generation, they would remember Shari as a older woman doing Lamb Chop's Playalong on PBS. The documentary is a chronicle of Shari's life as told by family and friends but also shows how she can had to make sure she was not invisible in the public eye due to being a ventriloquist in a male dominated field. It starts with her early years and training in the Bronx which leads her into different activities such as magic, dancing and singing. This is where her father who was at the time New York's official magician lets young Shari tries her hand(pun intended) in ventriloquism which they meet J.W Cooper a famous African American ventriloquist who broke barriers due to his skills and a friend of Shari's dad. He trained her in a park bench for a while until Shari was on set for her early appearances on television before Lamb Chop.
Once she was noticed by higher ups on NBC she became the first woman to have her own children's show and one of the earliest children's show on TV at the time predated Mr. Rogers by a couple of years. From there she becomes a tour de force her masterful ventriloquism having various puppets on at once and being on camera all the time. Of course the films also shows the lows of her career as her shows got cancelled and being on various TV shows just to get by and noticed. During this period she keep working even when no one was watching but once PBS starts calling her to have her own show. It becomes the show she always dreamed of and her career gets the reboot it truly deserved. The film is also a history lesson as you learn that Shari Lewis may be the blueprint for children's television shows as we know it and she was the first to balance her career between kids and adults with her Las Vegas sets. Shari and Lamb Chop is a fun film for all ages of course but also a inspiring one for anyone to let them know that perservance and resilience will keep you around for a long time no matter the circumstances.
Be on the lookout for the film at this year's DOC NYC festival and for future updates go to www.shariandlambchopdoc.com