“Kartoon Klub!” / “Shari & Her Friends!’ reviewed by Kevin Butler
Local: WPIX TV Ch.11 NYC
Monday-Saturday evenings: Monday October 5,1953 – Saturday December 22,1956
Hosts/Performers: Ted Steele:Monday 10/5/53-Thursday 7/1/54
Shari Lewis: Tuesday 7/6/53-Saturday 12/22/56
Puppet Characters: “Taffy Twinkle” &”Randy Rocket’
In the fall of 1953..Local NYC based tv station WPIX TV Ch.11 created and produced a daily children’s program for singing bandleader, radio DJ and songwriter:Ted Steele.Which was titled “Kartoon Klub”.. debuted on Monday evening October 5,1953.
Steele..who was then hosting a jazz music and dance program for teens on Ch.11 was required to entertain and inform the younger kids in between the reruns of old movie comedies and cartoons. He didn’t care for the format and he left the show..following the Thursday July 1,1954 broadcast.
After seeing her success as the mc of WNBT TV Ch.4’s “Facts N’Fun!”..Entertainer Shari Lewis was invited to audition for the hosting spot on”Kartoon Klub”.
She won the audition and on Tuesday July 6,1954 Ms.Lewis became the second and last mc of the program.
By this time the backdrop of the show changed to a fantasy setting..as Ms.Lewis was elected to the post of “Mayoress” of “Kartoonia” a Mythical realm that she supervised..as she would engage her studio audiences and her viewers in games, songs, stories, craftmaking, hobbies, informational segments,contests,and interviews with guest performers, personalities and members of the studio audience.
She also performed magic tricks and drew pictures for the kids. Scriptwriter Lan Okun would pen the show’s scripts and on one memorable program..New York Sunday News comic strip artist(and future playwright) Herb Gardner would engage the citizens of “Kartoonia”in a series of chalk talks about his unique group of creatures:”The Nebbishes”.
“Taffy Twinkle”appeared on the show..but instead of reviving the puppet character of”Samson”..Ms.Lewis ultilized a new vent figure “Randy Rocket” (A zany astronaught).
The show became a hit with NYC’s young viewers..and on Saturday evening September 23,1956 the show’s title was changed to “Shari & Her Friends!”.The show continued to entertain and inform The NYC kids..but..Ms.Lewis found the old movie cartoons and comedies that she screened on the program inappropriate for her viewers.
She asked him if it would be possible to to either edit out the offending characters and scenes from the films or replace them with more meaningful children’s films?
Mr.Thrower’s response was an angry one “Get The Hell Out Of Here You’re Fired!”.
Ms.Lewis would mc the last episode of “Shari & Her Friends!” on Saturday December 22,1956.
She would go onto mc two more kids tv shows “Shariland! (Which would be filmed and seen in national syndication) and “Hi Mom!”..prior to her hosting “The Shari Lewis Show”on the full NBC TV Network in the fall of 1960.