Gene Shalit

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Gene Shalit
Shalit on Today, 1973
Eugene Shalit

(1926-03-25) March 25, 1926 (age 94)
EducationMorristown High School
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
OccupationFilm critic, literary critic, television personality
Years active1967–2010
Nancy Lewis
(m. 1950; died 1978)
Children6, including Willa Shalit

Eugene Shalit (born March 25, 1926)[1] is an American film and book critic. He filled those roles on NBC's The Today Show from January 15, 1973, after starting part-time in 1970,[1] until his retirement on November 11, 2010.[2] He is known for his frequent use of puns, his oversized handlebar moustache and fuzzy hair, and for wearing colorful bowties.

Early life and education[edit]

According to his official MSNBC bio,

Shalit was born in a New York hospital on March 25, 1926, and eight days later arrived in Newark, New Jersey, in company of his mother. In 1932 he accompanied his family when they moved to Morristown, New Jersey. In Morristown High School he wrote the school paper's humor column (prophetically called "The Broadcaster"), and narrowly escaped expulsion.[1]

Born to Jewish parents, Shalit attended Morristown High School, where he wrote a humor column for the school newspaper.[3][4]

Gene Shalit wrote for The Daily Illini for six years at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (1943–1949).


Shalit, according to a New York 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 never spoke to Shalit again, and referred to him as a "jellyfish",[5] an informal term for "a person without strong resolve or stamina".[6]

Shalit has been involved in reviewing the arts since 1967 and has written for such publications as Look magazine, Ladies' Home Journal (for 12 years), Cosmopolitan, TV Guide, Seventeen, Glamour, McCall's, and The New York Times. From 1970 to 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.[1]

In 1986, Shalit hosted a videocassette and laserdisc collection from MCA Home Video, Gene Shalit's Critic's Choice Video. Four images (five on the laserdisc covers) of Shalit appeared in a filmstrip on the front of the box with his reviews on the back. Titles included Touch of Evil, Destry Rides Again, Double Indemnity and The Ipcress File.[7]

In 1987, Shalit published Laughing Matters: A Treasury of American Humor,[8] a critically praised humor anthology.

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".[9] He has largely been reclusive since his retirement, only appearing once for Willard Scott's retirement in 2015.[10]

Brokeback Mountain review controversy[edit]

Shalit was criticized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for his review of Brokeback Mountain in which he referred to Jake Gyllenhaal's character as a "sexual predator": GLAAD said Shalit's "baseless branding of Jack as a 'sexual predator' merely because he is romantically interested in someone of the same sex is defamatory, ignorant, and irresponsible" and that he "used the occasion to promote defamatory antigay prejudice to a national audience."[11] His gay son, 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."[12]

Personal life[edit]

Gene Shalit was married to Nancy Shalit. For much of his career, Shalit lived in Leonia, New Jersey.[13][14] Shalit's children include the artist and entrepreneur Willa Shalit.[13] Another child is Peter Shalit, a physician and recognized authority on gay men's health and living with HIV.[15][16][12] His daughter Emily died of ovarian cancer in 2012.[17]

Cameo appearances and popular culture[edit]

Shalit guest-starred as the voice, and was portrayed in the form, of a fish food critic named "Gene Scallop" in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Krusty Sponge".[18]

He has been parodied in several episodes of Family Guy in cutaway gags. In "Brian Sings and Swings", Shalit mugs Peter in a cutaway and makes threats using several movie title puns ("Don't Panic Room ... I'm not going to William Hurt you. I only want your Tango & Cash. So just Pay it Forward and we'll all be Happy Gilmore!"), which only serves to confuse Peter. In "The Book of Joe", Peter haunts Shalit and his fictional wife Joanne (who is identical to Shalit himself with a large moustache) by pretending to be the ghost of Roger Ebert. In another episode, Peter obtains the power of transformation and while in the form of Britney Spears he kisses Justin Timberlake and then turns into Shalit, exclaiming to a horrified Timberlake, "I'm Gene Shalit now! BYE!". In "Big Man on Hippocampus", Peter reads aloud a review that was supposedly written by Shalit.

Shalit also voiced his own likeness in three episodes of the animated series The Critic.[19]

A Muppet character based on him appeared in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975).[20]

Shalit was occasionally portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Horatio Sanz in sketches and Weekend Update sequences.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d "Gene Shalit". NBC News. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  2. ^ "Movie critic Gene Shalit leaving 'Today' show". USA Today. November 9, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  3. ^ Morristown at a glance Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Gannett Company. Accessed January 27, 2008. "Poet Joyce Kilmer once taught at Morristown High School, and film critic Gene Shalit got his start writing a humor column, 'The Korn Krib,' for the high school newspaper."
  4. ^ "Woman proves shopping can transform lives". CNN. September 17, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  5. ^ Goldman, Andrew (March 27, 2011). "Dick Clark, Still the Oldest Living Teenager". New York Times Magazine: MM14. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "jellyfish". Unabridged. Random House, Inc. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  7. ^ "Home Video Newsline". Billboard. November 29, 1986. p. 45. ISSN 0006-2510.
  8. ^ Shalit, Gene (1987). Laughing Matters: A Celebration of American Humor. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-18547-9.
  9. ^ "People: Conan O'Brien; Robert De Niro; Gene Shalit; Rachel Weisz; Darren Aronofsky; Neil Young; John Nettles". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 10, 2010. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  10. ^ "Willard Scott's retirement brings rare Gene Shalit sighting to 'Today'". Daily News. New York. December 15, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  11. ^ "Gene Shalit's Brokeback Mountain review angers gay rights group". The Advocate. January 7, 2006. ISSN 0001-8996.
  12. ^ a b "Peter Shalit writes to GLAAD about his dad". The Advocate. January 10, 2006. ISSN 0001-8996.
  13. ^ a b Kahn, Toby. "Gene Shalit's Daughter Willa Has Casts of Characters Ranging from Brooke Shields to President Reagan", People (magazine), February 10, 1986. Accessed May 16, 2016.
  14. ^ The Publisher's Weekly. 184. F. Leypoldt. September 26, 2006 [1st pub. 1963]. p. 117.
  15. ^ Shalit, Peter (1998). Living Well: The Gay Man's Essential Health Guide. Allyson. ISBN 978-1-55583-444-9.
  16. ^ Steele, Bruce C. (February 14, 2006). "Q&A: Peter Shalit". The Advocate. p. 4. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  17. ^ "Emily Shalit". The Berkshire Eagle. December 7, 2012. Retrieved December 29, 2018 – via Legacy.
  18. ^ Harnick, Chris (June 18, 2019). "SpongeBob SquarePants Assembles Its Celebrity Guest Stars for One Epic Celebration". E! Online. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  19. ^ Yorston, G.W.C.; Lavalie, John (October 25, 2018). "The Critic: an Episode Guide". Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  20. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (May 19, 2012). "The Muppet Show - Season One". IGN. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  21. ^ "Watch Gene Shalit Sketches from SNL Played by Horatio Sanz". NBC Universal. Retrieved March 31, 2017.

External links[edit]