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Gene Shalit

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Gene Shalit
Shalit on Today, 1973
Born (1926-03-25) March 25, 1926 (age 98)
New York City, U.S.
EducationMorristown High School
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
  • Journalist
  • film critic
  • literary critic
  • television personality
  • author
  • press agent
Years activec. 1960–2010
Nancy Lewis
(m. 1950; died 1978)
Children6, including Willa

Eugene Shalit (born March 25, 1926) is an American retired journalist, television personality, film and book critic, and author. After starting to work part-time on NBC's The Today Show in 1970, he filled those roles from January 15, 1973,[1] until retiring on November 11, 2010.[2][3] He is known for his frequent use of puns, his oversized handlebar moustache and fuzzy hair, and for wearing colorful bow ties.

Early life and education[edit]

Shalit was born on March 25, 1926, in New York City, and raised in Newark and Morristown, New Jersey.[1] Shalit is of Jewish ancestry.[4]

In high school, Shalit wrote a humor column for the school newspaper, which Gannett has identified as "The Korn Krib".[5]

Shalit wrote for The Daily Illini from 1945 to 1949.[6]


Shalit, according to a Dick Clark interview in The New York Times Magazine, 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".[7]

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 broadcast 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.[8]

Shalit announced that he would leave The Today Show after 40 years, effective November 11, 2010. He was quoted as saying "It's enough already", about his retirement.[9] He has largely stayed out of the public eye since then, only appearing once for Willard Scott's retirement from NBC 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 son Peter, who is gay, wrote a letter to GLAAD defending his father and said the organization had defamed him by "falsely accusing him of a repellent form of bigotry."[12]

Written works[edit]

Shalit has written and edited various books.

  • Somehow It Works; A Candid Portrait of the 1964 Presidential Election. 1965.
  • Shalit, Gene (1987). Laughing Matters: A Celebration of American Humor. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385185479.
  • Shalit, Gene (2002). Great Hollywood Wit. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0312282721.
  • Shalit, Gene (2016) [1962]. Khrushchev's Top Secret Coloring Book. About Comics. ISBN 978-1936404636.

Personal life[edit]

Shalit was married to Nancy Lewis from 1950 until her death from cancer in 1978.[13] For much of his career he lived in Leonia, New Jersey, although as of 2012 he was listed as a resident of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.[14][15][16]

Nancy Lewis' and Gene Shalit's children include the artist and entrepreneur Willa Shalit.[14][17] Another child is Peter Shalit, a physician and recognized authority on gay men's health and living with HIV.[18][19][12] Their daughter Emily died of ovarian cancer in November 2012.[13]

Shalit crashed his car in Lenox, Massachusetts, on October 24, 2012, after falling asleep at the wheel. Misdemeanor charges of negligent driving to endanger were later dismissed after he agreed to stop driving until the dismissal, and he was to follow a "safety condition" approved by his attorney and the police chief.[16]

In 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".[20]

Shalit has been parodied in several episodes of Family Guy in cutaway gags, including "Brian Sings and Swings",[21] "The Book of Joe",[22] and "Big Man on Hippocampus",[23] though Shalit did not provide voice acting for the series.

Shalit also voiced a character portraying himself in three episodes of the animated series The Critic.[24]

A Muppet character based on him appeared in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975).[25]

Shalit was portrayed in two episodes of Saturday Night Live by Jon Lovitz,[26] and later in nine episodes by Horatio Sanz in sketches and Weekend Update sequences.[27][28]

Shalit was also portrayed on Second City Television several times by cast member Eugene Levy.[29]

On Late Night with David Letterman Shalit had his head squashed between two giant comedy hammers during an interview with David Letterman.[30][31]


  1. ^ a b c "Gene Shalit". NBC News. December 10, 2004. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  2. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (November 12, 2010). "Gene Shalit Signs Off from the 'Today' Show". Cleveland. Archived from the original on May 5, 2021. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  3. ^ "Movie Critic Gene Shalit Leaving 'Today' Show". USA Today (Press release). New York City. Associated Press. November 9, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  4. ^ Scherzer, Carl B. (October 1977). "Early Jewish History in Morristown". Morristown Jewish Center. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved April 23, 2021. Gene Shalit is not Morristown's first nationally known television personality of Jewish ancestry.
  5. ^ "Morristown at a Glance". Gannett. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 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.
  6. ^ "Gene Shalit 2007 Hall of Fame Profile". Illini Media. Retrieved November 21, 2023.
  7. ^ Goldman, Andrew (March 27, 2011). "Dick Clark, Still the Oldest Living Teenager". The New York Times Magazine: MM14. Archived from the original on April 1, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  8. ^ "Home Video Newsline". Billboard. November 29, 1986. p. 45. ISSN 0006-2510.
  9. ^ "People: Conan O'Brien; Robert De Niro; Gene Shalit; Rachel Weisz; Darren Aronofsky; Neil Young; John Nettles". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 10, 2010. Archived from the original on December 10, 2010. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  10. ^ "Willard Scott's Retirement Brings Rare Gene Shalit Sighting to 'Today'". New York Daily News. December 15, 2015. Archived from the original on May 30, 2019. 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 "Emily Shalit". The Berkshire Eagle. December 7, 2012. Archived from the original on December 30, 2018. Retrieved December 29, 2018 – via Legacy.
  14. ^ a b Kahn, Toby (February 10, 1986). "Gene Shalit's Daughter Willa Has Casts of Characters Ranging from Brooke Shields to President Reagan". People. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  15. ^ The Publishers Weekly. Vol. 184. F. Leypoldt. September 26, 2006 [1st pub. 1963]. p. 117.
  16. ^ a b Fanto, Clarence (January 11, 2013). "Gene Shalit's Car-Crash Case in Lenox to Be Dismissed". The Berkshire Eagle. Massachusetts. Archived from the original on May 25, 2021. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  17. ^ "Woman Proves Shopping Can Transform Lives". CNN. September 17, 2008. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  18. ^ Shalit, Peter (1998). Living Well: The Gay Man's Essential Health Guide. Allyson. ISBN 978-1-55583-444-9.
  19. ^ Steele, Bruce C. (February 14, 2006). "Q&A: Peter Shalit". The Advocate. p. 4. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  20. ^ Harnick, Chris (June 18, 2019). "SpongeBob SquarePants Assembles Its Celebrity Guest Stars for One Epic Celebration". E! Online. Archived from the original on June 23, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  21. ^ "Brian Sings and Swings". Family Guy. Season 4. Episode 19. January 8, 2006. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  22. ^ "The Book of Joe". Family Guy. Season 13. Episode 2. October 5, 2014. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  23. ^ "Big Man on Hippocampus". Family Guy. Season 8. Episode 10. January 3, 2010. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  24. ^ Yorston, G.W.C.; Lavalie, John (October 25, 2018). "The Critic: an Episode Guide". epguides. Archived from the original on August 30, 2021. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  25. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (May 19, 2012). "The Muppet Show – Season One". IGN. Archived from the original on November 24, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  26. ^ "Gene Shalit Played by Jon Lovitz". SNL Archives. Archived from the original on November 4, 2021. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  27. ^ "Watch Gene Shalit Sketches from SNL Played by Horatio Sanz". NBC Universal. Archived from the original on April 1, 2017. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  28. ^ "Gene Shalit Played by Horatio Sanz". SNL Archives. Archived from the original on November 4, 2021. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  29. ^ Meisler, Andy (April 17, 1994). "The Satirist Who Landed in a Sitcom". Television. The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 30, 2021. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  30. ^ Rami, Trupti; Yuan, Jada; Caldwell, Sean Fitz-Gerald Sarah; Salemi, Vicki; Gilbert, Kylie; Vineyard, Jennifer; Gaffney, Adrienne; Orzeck, Kurt; Gordon, Diane; Peters, Jenny (May 20, 2015). "Conan O'Brien, Tina Fey, and More Celebs Share Their Favorite Letterman Memories". Slate. Archived from the original on March 20, 2022. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  31. ^ 'Why We Edit' Collection on Letterman, 1983–92. Giller, Don. March 23, 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2022 – via YouTube.

External links[edit]