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Gene Shalit

Gene Shalit

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Gene Shalit is a film and book critic
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

. He has filled these roles on NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

's The Today Show since January 15, 1973. He is known for his frequent use of pun
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

s, his oversized handlebar moustache
Handlebar moustache
A handlebar moustache is a moustache with particularly lengthy, upward curved, extremities. It is named for its resemblance to the handlebars of a bicycle. It is also known as a "spaghetti moustache", because of its stereotypical association with Italian men...

, and for wearing colorful bowties.


He has been involved in reviewing the arts since 1967 and has written for such publications as Look
Look (American magazine)
Look was a bi-weekly, general-interest magazine published in Des Moines, Iowa from 1937 to 1971, with more of an emphasis on photographs than articles...

magazine, Ladies' Home Journal
Ladies' Home Journal
Ladies' Home Journal is an American magazine which first appeared on February 16, 1883, and eventually became one of the leading women's magazines of the 20th century in the United States...

(for 12 years), Cosmopolitan, TV Guide
TV Guide
TV Guide is a weekly American magazine with listings of TV shows.In addition to TV listings, the publication features television-related news, celebrity interviews, gossip and film reviews and crossword puzzles...

, Seventeen
Seventeen (magazine)
Seventeen is an American magazine for teenagers. It was first published in September 1944 by Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications. News Corporation bought Triangle in 1988, and sold Seventeen to K-III Communications in 1991. Primedia sold the magazine to Hearst in 2003. It is still in the...

, Glamour
Glamour (magazine)
Glamour is a women's magazine published by Condé Nast Publications. Founded in 1939 in the United States, it was originally called Glamour of Hollywood....

, McCall's
McCall's was a monthly American women's magazine that enjoyed great popularity through much of the 20th century, peaking at a readership of 8.4 million in the early 1960s. It was established as a small-format magazine called The Queen in 1873...

, and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. From 1970–1982 he had a daily essay on NBC Radio "Man About Anything", that was carried on more stations than any other NBC network radio feature. In 1987, he published Laughing Matters—A Treasury of American Humor, a critically praised humor anthology. As of 2009, he lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Great Barrington is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 7,104 at the 2010 census. Both a summer resort and home to Ski Butternut, Great Barrington includes the villages of Van...

, with his cat Fellini. Shalit's children include the artist and entrepreneur Willa Shalit
Willa Shalit
Willa Shalit is a Jewish-American artist, theatrical and television producer, photographer, author/editor, socially conscious entrepreneur and philanthropist. She graduated from St. Ann's School and Oberlin College...


According to his official MSNBC bio, "Shalit was born in a New York on March 25, 1926, and eight days later arrived in Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, in company of his mother. In 1932 he accompanied his family when they moved to Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 18,411. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown became characterized as "the military capital of the American Revolution" because of its strategic role in the...

. In Morristown High School
Morristown High School
Morristown High School is a four-year public high school serving students in grades 9 - 12 from three communities in Morris County, New Jersey, United States, operating as part of the Morris School District...

 he wrote the school paper’s humor column (prophetically called "The Broadcaster"), and narrowly escaped expulsion."

Born of Jewish parents, Shalit attended Morristown High School
Morristown High School
Morristown High School is a four-year public high school serving students in grades 9 - 12 from three communities in Morris County, New Jersey, United States, operating as part of the Morris School District...

, where he wrote a humor column for the school newspaper.

Gene Shalit wrote for The Daily Illini in six years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...


Shalit announced that he would leave The Today Show after 40 years, effective November 11, 2010. Of his decision, he was quoted as saying: "It's enough already".
Shalit, according to a NY Times Magazine interview of Dick Clark, was Clark's press agent in the early 1960s. Shalit reportedly "stopped representing" Clark during a Congressional investigation of payola. Clark has never spoken again to Shalit and referred to him as a "jellyfish
Jellyfish are free-swimming members of the phylum Cnidaria. Medusa is another word for jellyfish, and refers to any free-swimming jellyfish stages in the phylum Cnidaria...


Brokeback Mountain review controversy

Shalit was criticized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is a non-governmental media monitoring organization which promotes the image of LGBT people in the media...

 (GLAAD) for his January 5, 2006, on-air review of the acclaimed film Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 romantic drama film directed by Ang Lee. It is a film adaptation of the 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx with the screenplay written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry...

, which he panned. Shalit referred to Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal
Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal is an American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at age ten...

's character, Jack Twist, as a "sexual predator" who "tracks Ennis (Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger
Heath Andrew Ledger was an Australian television and film actor. After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger moved to the United States in 1998 to develop his film career...

) down and coaxes him into sporadic trysts."

The Advocate
The Advocate
The Advocate is an American LGBT-interest magazine, printed monthly and available by subscription. The Advocate brand also includes a web site. Both magazine and web site have an editorial focus on news, politics, opinion, and arts and entertainment of interest to LGBT people...

noted that the tone of the criticism seems to be at odds with an essay Shalit wrote about his adult gay son in 1997. Shalit speaks highly of his son in this essay, which concludes with the statement, "Let children follow their own star." Peter Shalit wrote a letter to GLAAD defending his father and said GLAAD had defamed him by "falsely accusing him of a repellent form of bigotry."

Shalit wrote in a letter to GLAAD:
"In describing the behavior of 'Jack' I used words ('sexual predator
Sexual predator
The term sexual predator is used pejoratively to describe a person seen as obtaining or trying to obtain sexual contact with another person in a metaphorically "predatory" manner. Analogous to how a predator hunts down its prey, so the sexual predator is thought to "hunt" for his or her sex partners...

') that I now discover have angered, agitated, and hurt many people. I did not intend to use a word that many in the gay community
Gay community
The gay community, or LGBT community, is a loosely defined grouping of LGBT and LGBT-supportive people, organizations and subcultures, united by a common culture and civil rights movements. These communities generally celebrate pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality...

 consider incendiary. . . . I certainly had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone in the gay community or on the community itself. I regret any emotional hurt that may have resulted from my review of Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 romantic drama film directed by Ang Lee. It is a film adaptation of the 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx with the screenplay written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry...


Peter Shalit told GLAAD, "He may have had an unpopular opinion of a movie that is important to the gay community, but he defamed no one, and he is not a homophobe."

Cameo appearances and bit parts

Shalit guest-starred as the voice, and was portrayed in the form, of a fish named "Gene Scallop" in the SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated television series, created by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg. Much of the series centers on the exploits and adventures of the title character and his various friends in the underwater city of "Bikini Bottom"...

episode "The Krusty Sponge" in which the character was an important food critic with which through his review episode titled Bottom Feeding, he stated all of the negatives of the Krusty Krab
Krusty Krab
The Krusty Krab is a restaurant in the city of Bikini Bottom in the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants.-Depictions:The owner of the Krusty Krab is Eugene H. Krabs, although ownership changed to SpongeBob in "Patty Hype" and to Howard Blandy in "The Algae's Always Greener"...

 and its management but in closing praised SpongeBob
SpongeBob SquarePants (character)
SpongeBob SquarePants is a main fictional character in the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. He is voiced by Tom Kenny and first appeared on television in the series' pilot episode "Help Wanted" on May 1, 1999. SpongeBob was created and designed by cartoonist Stephen Hillenburg...

's cooking style and stated that Mr. Krabs should "sponge up" (Talking about The Krusty Krab), thus causing Mr. Krabs to go overboard, even as far as selling "Spongy Patties" which were actually old rotten yellow Krabby Patties thus causing several customers to get very ill and to turn yellow. Scallop appeared later in the episode as the head juror (who himself ate one of the patties), reading "the jury finds Mr. Krabs guilty." Shalit told Entertainment Tonight
Entertainment Tonight
Entertainment Tonight is a daily tabloid television entertainment television news show that is syndicated by CBS Television Distribution throughout the United States, Canada and in many countries around the world. Linda Bell Blue is currently the program's executive producer...

that he enjoys the show and was amused seeing the episode.

He also made a cameo appearance
Cameo appearance
A cameo role or cameo appearance is a brief appearance of a known person in a work of the performing arts, such as plays, films, video games and television...

 in an episode of Family Guy
Family Guy
Family Guy is an American animated television series created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series centers on the Griffins, a dysfunctional family consisting of parents Peter and Lois; their children Meg, Chris, and Stewie; and their anthropomorphic pet dog Brian...

in a cutaway gag, mugging Peter and talking in puns with movies. In another episode, Peter obtains the power of transformation. While in the form of Britney Spears
Britney Spears
Britney Jean Spears is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album...

 he kisses Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake
Justin Randall Timberlake is an American pop musician and actor. He achieved early fame when he appeared as a contestant on Star Search, and went on to star in the Disney Channel television series The New Mickey Mouse Club, where he met future bandmate JC Chasez...

 and then turns into Shalit, exclaiming to a horrified Timberlake "I'm Gene Shalit now! BYE!". A review that was supposedly written by Shalit was read aloud by Peter, in the episode "Big Man on Hippocampus". Shalit also voiced his own likeness in three episodes of the animated series The Critic
The Critic
The Critic is an American prime time animated series revolving around the life of film critic Jay Sherman, voiced by actor Jon Lovitz. It was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, both of whom had worked as writers on The Simpsons. The Critic had 23 episodes produced, first broadcast on ABC in 1994,...


Shalit was featured on Sesame Street
Sesame Street
Sesame Street has undergone significant changes in its history. According to writer Michael Davis, by the mid-1970s the show had become "an American institution". The cast and crew expanded during this time, including the hiring of women in the crew and additional minorities in the cast. The...

in the 1970s. A Muppet
The Muppets
The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by Jim Henson starting in 1954–55. Although the term is often used to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark owned by the Walt Disney Company in reference...

 character based on him appeared in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence aired on ABC on March 19, 1975. It was one of the two pilots produced for The Muppet Show. The other pilot, The Muppets Valentine Show, aired in 1974....


External links