A Great Big City

A Very Shepherd Christmas - Stories From Jean Shepherd's New York City Radio Show

Scut Farkas from 'A Christmas Story'
Scut Farkas from 'A Christmas Story' via Pinterest

Jean Shepherd is best known for his classic semi-autobiographical film 'A Christmas Story', but 20 years earlier, he was already a familiar voice to radio listeners in New York City.

Shepherd hosted a late-night show on WOR for 21 years, and each night was packed with the same storytelling and clever insights that became the inspiration for 'A Christmas Story'. While his voice has become ingrained in Christmas pop culture as the narrator of 'A Christmas Story', the recordings of his radio career from 1956-1977 paint a raw, impressionistic vision of New York City life.

When Christmas came around each year, Shepherd would retell some of the various anecdotes that would be gathered together into 'A Christmas Story' — some of which had recently been published in Playboy magazine and some of which made their debut on his radio show. These stories were included in his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters, but it was his on-air readings and live shows at the Limelight in Chelsea that would eventually lead to the creation of a new Christmas classic 20 years later.

Compare the clips from the movie to this 1972 recording to see how some of the most famous scenes were already fully-formed 11 years before filming.

The story of the Red Ryder BB gun and "You’ll shoot your eye out!" from 1972:

Shepherd's childhood friend Flick gets his tongue stuck to the telegraph pole from 1968:

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Update: An earlier version of this article listed the character as "Scut Farkus", but a reader wrote in to tell us that it's actually spelled "Farkas". Even though the spelling is "Farkus" on both IMDB and the website for the Christmas Story House and Museum, Jean Shepherd used the spelling "Farkas" in his book 'Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters'. A small detail, but a fun piece of trivia!

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