Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Happy Reader Roundup

Getting lots of nice reader comments lately, which I naturally love. Keep 'em coming and please post comments on the book's Amazon page.

Thanks! And here are the comments. 

"I'm in the middle of the book and I love it." John K. post on Facebook

"Finished it Saturday. So sad. Enjoyed it. Big Sherman fan." Peter on Twitter.

"Good afternoon Mr. Cohen -- I just completed your book and enjoyed it very much; I have recommended it to several friends. Congratulations on your work." Email from Robin S.

"I went to YouTube because I'm loving your book." Ardie G. comment on my YouTube channel.

Monday, September 16, 2013

American Spectator Likes Allan Sherman (who knew?)

The September issue of American Spectator magazine features a review of Overweight Sensation, by (full disclosure) my friend Jerry Nachman.

No surprise, he likes it.

"Mark Cohen's insightful book carefully charts [Sherman's] unlikely rise and swift, sorry crash."

But I believe he really did like it.

Thanks, Jerry.

New Interview with Allan Sherman Biography Author

Which is me.

The headline on the interview -- published in The Modern -- capsulizes the whole story.

Allan Sherman – Overweight Sensation

Before Weird Al, there was Allan Sherman, whose song parodies nailed ethnicity and suburban conformity.

Click here to see the story.

Sherman at his friend Bobby Rosengarden's house
(courtesy of Neil Rosengarden)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Photos/Videos Tab is Fully Updated (finally!)

Just updated this blog's Photos/Videos tab.

Now it has everything that's on my YouTube channel. Visit it by clicking here.

For starters, enjoy "Just the Times," Sherman's parody of the great song "Just in Time."

The recording is from Sherman's performance at the National Press Club in Washington, where he entertained the august group on February 2, 1963.

It is, not surprisingly, the only song about the 1962-63 New York City newspaper strike.

Sherman's parody, "Just the Times"

Friday, August 30, 2013

Allan Sherman on "Hello Muddah"

In less than one minute, Sherman offers a fascinating take on the appeal of "Hello Muddah."

For Sherman the song's subtext, if you'll allow such language, is darker than you might guess.

This audio clip is virtually unknown. It is from a 1964 not-for-sale promotional album delivered to disc jockey called Allan Sherman And You. . . 

I'm very interested in your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chicago Mayor Proclaims Allan Sherman Day!

Chicago Mayoral Proclamation to designate August 31, 2013, Allan Sherman Day in Chicago

The proclamation, to be released Wednesday, will recognize the 50th anniversary of the Chicago native's famous "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!" song, and also the 50th anniversary of Sherman's My Son, The Nut becoming the #1 bestselling album in the country. My Son, The Nut includes "Hello Muddah."

Allan Sherman was born in Chicago on November 30, 1924. He attended Lowell Elementary School and Tuley High. His childhood experiences living with his immigrant grandparents Leon and Esther Sherman at 3219 West Division Street led to the humorous Jewish song parodies that won him great fame in October 1962 with his first album, My Son, The Folk Singer

Folk Singer's radio hit was the "Sarah Jackman" parody of "Frere Jacques," and that song's popularity helped the Folk Singer album sell more than 1 million copies and become the #1 album in the country. The album went Gold, and was quickly followed in December 1962 by My Son, The Celebrity. It also went Gold. Memorable songs from Celebrity include "Won't You Come Home, Disraeli," a parody of "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey," and "Harvey and Sheila," Sherman's parody of the Jewish folk song "Hava Nagilah."

Sherman's third album, My Son, The Nut, and "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!" single were released in late July 1963. The song about the travails of boy at Camp Granada struck a cultural nerve that resulted in buyers "actually breaking down doors" of record stores, according to a report in Billboard. A month later, by the end of August, "Hello Muddah" was the #2 single in the country and Nut was the #1 album.

The Chicago Mayoral Proclamation came at the request of Mark Cohen, author of Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman (Brandeis U. Press, May 14, 2013). Overweight Sensation is the first biography of the song parodist, and it has been featured on NPRWNYCChicago TribuneLos Angeles Times, and more.

Eric Alterman, author and The Nation columnist, called Overweight Sensation a "remarkably well-researched, passionately written story of quite nearly tragic proportions."  Prof. Stephen Whitfield at Brandeis University praised it as a "superb, absorbing account." Prof. Victor L. Cahn at Skidmore College described the biography as an "entertaining, informative, and ultimately moving story."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Billboard: My Son, The Nut a Smash

From the front page of Billboard, August 24, 1963.

50th Anniversary Watch: My Son, The Nut Zooms Up the Charts

Sherman's My Son, The Nut album zooms to the top in just two weeks on the charts.

On Aug. 17, 1963, MSTN was #90 on the Billboard chart

A week later on Aug. 24, 1963, it was at #5.

Guess where it went on Aug. 31?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Podcast About Allan Sherman Biography

In this podcast, I talk with Aaron Lansky, founder of the National Yiddish Book Center, about our guy Allan Sherman.

Click on image and enjoy.

Airline Passenger Reads Allan Sherman Biography

An Allan Sherman fan, and fan of Overweight Sensation, wrote today to report that "The person next to me on the plane was reading it, also."

Is there any better proof of the book's existence than seeing someone read it on a plane?

I think not. 


Hello Muddah Hits Australia in August '63.

On August 17, 1963, Billboard spotted the international sensation "Hello Muddah" was beginning to cause.

This was only the beginning.

50 YEARS AGO: My Son, The Nut Starts Ascent

On August 17, 1963, Billboard marked My Son, The Nut's climb to #1 when it highlighted the album as a national breakout hit.

Sherman's year of extraordinary fame that began in October 1962 was nearing its peak moment.

50 Years Ago: "Hello Muddah" Climbs The Charts

In Aug 1963, "Hello Muddah" was number 45 on the singles chart the week ending August 3.

The next week it jumped to 17.

And for the week ending August 17 it was number 7. 

And it kept on climbing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sherman at the Top of His Game - Summer of 1963

A sign of Sherman's importance is his prominence in this Warner Bros. Records advertisement. 

My Son, The Nut is in the top slot.

In the summer of 1963, Sherman was a big star at the top of his game.

Ad in Billboard, Aug. 10, 1963


50 Years Ago This Week: My Son Mania Continues

Fifty years ago this week, Allan Sherman's third album in 10 months - My Son, The Nut - hit the market and started climbing the charts.

As the write-up notes, the album contains the hit single "Hello Muddah," mistakenly called "Dear Muddah."

"Album Reviews," Billboard, Aug. 10, 1963

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Terrific Historian of Am-Jewish Life Gives Sherman Bio Big Thumbs-Up

Brandeis U.'s Stephen Whitfield is a great historian, and his In Search of American Jewish Culture is a great book.

So it was wonderful to hear from him today and learn he thinks my Sherman bio is "a superb, absorbing account."

Thank you, Prof. Whitfield. 

LA Times On Sherman Bio

Read all about it here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Allan Sherman Hosts Tonight Show August 5-9, 1963

It's a big 50th anniversary week for Allan Sherman.

August 4, 1963 - With “Hello Muddah” a hit and Sherman about to begin his week as guest host of Tonight, the most important newspaper in America finally gave in and recognized his existence. On August 4, 1963, the New York Times ran a fastidious feature on the performer that somehow managed to avoid using the word Jewish. 

August 5, 1963 - Sherman guest hosts Tonight show and challenges Cary Grant to come on the show and “let the public decide who is prettier.”

August 6, 1963 - Sherman gives Bill Cosby the big break the young comedian had been thirsting for: his first appearance on the Tonight show. This leads to Sherman producing Cosby's first album.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Well, I Guess I'm an Author!

I've been invited to the Berkeley Public Library Authors Dinner, the idea being that an author hosts each table purchased by Friends of the Library.

I'm humbled and honored. Very cool. February 8, 2014.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Love to Hear From Happy Readers

This is how authors dream their day will start -- with an 8:15am note from an appreciative, happy, insightful, grateful, obviously intelligent and unusually perceptive reader of the highest possible taste.

That is, one that loves your book.

Dear Mr. Cohen
Thank you so very much for OVERWEIGHT SENSATION.
As a Jewish Babyboomer, I grew up with Allan Sherman's music.
I found his autobiography in the library many years ago, and still
have a copy.  But your book is simply wonderful.  What a joy.
And thank you for including the lyrics.

With warm regards,

Thank you again, Fran!

Sherman News for (Jewish) New Yorkers

Overweight Sensation has gotten a lot of press, but not in New York.

But now The Jewish Week's Sandee Brawarsky writes, 

"Mark Cohen has written a most comprehensive and accessible biography, “Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman” (Brandeis University Press), complete with lyrics of songs recorded and others that were never released. Cohen succeeds in presenting the fullness of Sherman’s larger-than-life personality, the family background that led to his original take on Jewish life and the connection of his life’s work to the world of American Jewish humor."


I mean, there was great coverage in Newsday, but that's Long Island.

And the Forward, which is NY-centric but not NY-specific. (Not sure that makes sense.)

Hold on. There was my interview with WNYC's Soundcheck, which was great. And also Women's Wear Daily

So, actually, the new Jewish Week review is not the first New York press. 

Muddah, Fadduh kindly disregard this letter.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Amazon Reviewers Give Book 5 Stars

"Who knew that a biography on Allan Sherman would be my favorite book?"

That's a line from my now favorite Amazon Customer Review (below)

That's the latest from the Amazon customer reviews, where 15 of the 17 reviewers gave the book 5 Stars.

All you Sherman book lovers out there, please keep spreading the word!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Hello Muddah" Turns 50

On July 26, 1963, Allan Sherman played the Hollywood Bowl and there sang -- for apparently the first time -- his soon-to-be mega-hit, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!"

As the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported the next day under the headline "Sherman (Al) Marches through Bowl; Leaves Wake of Laughter,"

"His newest, a take-off on a homesick boy at camp, is his best. It is belly-laugh material and parents will revel in its so-true-to-life barbs"

"Hello Muddah" madness had begun.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Call In To Ask Questions of Sherman Bio Author on July 24

More info at Stu's Show website.

Forward Newspaper Calls Sherman Bio "Exhaustive and Gripping"

The latest review of Overweight Sensation in The Forward agrees with earlier ones from Chicago Tribune, The Hollywood Reporter, Library Journal, and more.

It's good!

"Sherman was radically tweaking postwar American Jewish life while paving the way for a whole slew of Jewish-flavored American comedy — from Mel Brooks to Woody Allen to Robert Klein and David Brenner, all the way through to Jerry Seinfeld and the Larry David of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” as Mark Cohen convincingly argues in his exhaustive and gripping new biography, “Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

WGN Radio Interview, For Non-Chicagoans

Starting at 1:00 am Chicago time on July 3 (though I guess it was really July 4), I spent an hour on WGN talking about Allan Sherman. 

It was great.

Here it is for everyone outside Chicago, and for Chicagoans that sleep at night.

Sherman and Me Are In Purple Clover (a good thing)

A Q&A with me about the Fat Man in Purple Clover, a new website that wants to resist classification (good for them).

And the story includes a link to Larry David singing "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max," which needs to get around more.

Library Journal's Verdict: Recommended

"Cohen (Missing a Beat: The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim) presents a well-researched, interesting study of song parodist Allan Sherman. . . . The book also functions as a well thought out cultural history of Jewish Americans in the mid- to late 20th century." 

If you subscribe to Library Journal you can read the whole review here.

If not, I've posted it below.  (From Overweight Sensation's Barnes & Noble page.)

Library Journal
Cohen (Missing a Beat: The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim) presents a well-researched, interesting study of song parodist Allan Sherman. Sherman was one of the first Jewish comedians to become internationally famous with Borscht Belt-style, Jewish-specific material, such as his biggest hit, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh." (President Kennedy was one notable fan.) The book describes Sherman's early years, when he moved all over the country after his parents split up; his college years at the University of Illinois, where he first became known for his novelty songs and where his goofball antics later got him expelled; and his rapid fame and decline into obscurity. Sherman struggled with lung disease and diabetes later in life and died in 1973, two years shy of his 50th birthday. Cohen's goal is to ensure that Sherman gets the credit he deserves for his groundbreaking comedy. The book also functions as a well thought out cultural history of Jewish Americans in the mid- to late 20th century. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in Jewish comedy, Allan Sherman, song parodies, and comedian biographies.—Sally Bryant, Pepperdine Univ. Lib., Malibu, CA

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Long Island Wakes Up To Allan Sherman Day!

Long Island's Newsday newspaper has made this Allan Sherman Day.

Major story in today's paper with teaser views here and here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Sherman-Inspired Rick Moranis Album--Is It "Too Jewish?"

They said Allan Sherman was too Jewish. They were wrong.

But the new Rick Moranis album just might be.

My review is here

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Hollywood Reporter Like Overweight Sensation

Long-awaited review in THR. 

Huge thanks to my brother Neil who, as they say in the Mafia, is a connected guy. 

Neil knows EVERYBODY!

Key review quote,

"The story of [Sherman's] surprising rise, his heartfelt comic art form, his impact on the image of Jews in media as well as his rapid fall from grace -- leading up to his death only a decade later at age 48 -- is told with intimate details, an affectionate touch of humanity and lots of his parody lyrics in the well-researched book Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman by Mark Cohen."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Broadway Kingdom Interviews Me On Camera

Elli at had someone point a camera at me and I talked about Allan Sherman.

We commandeered the stage at the Museum of Jewish Heritage before my talk there on May 29, 2013. 

Thanks to Gabe Sanders for allowing us to move in on his turf like that. Gabe also, thankfully, told us when enough was enough. (It is sometimes hard for me to stop talking.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Weird Al" Yankovic Likes Sherman Biography Overweight Sensation

It's well known that "Weird Al" Yankovic is an Allan Sherman fan, less well known that he blurbed my biography of Allan Sherman, and unknown to most (including me until five minutes ago) that he recently hyped Overweight Sensation in a piece for Studio 360

Thank you, Al!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Allan Sherman Lost Parody Update: "Frank Cooper"

While researching Overweight Sensation I discovered about 20 lost Allan Sherman recordings. 

These were Sherman's "Goldeneh Moments From Broadway," which was his title for his collection of Jewish parodies of the Broadway musical.

This one, "Frank Cooper," is a parody of West Side Story's "Maria." It tells the comic tale of Sherman's relationship with legendary Hollywood agent Frank Cooper.

Another great punchline here. Enjoy

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Allan Sherman: Comic Father of Seinfeld, Larry David, Rick Moranis

It took me a while to piece it all together, but now it's overwhelming.

Allan Sherman might be the most influential comedian of his time.

This week comic actor Rick Moranis of Ghostbusters released My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs. The Jewish song comedy album was based, of course, on Moranis' early exposure to Allan Sherman.

Then I found Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars talking Sherman with Joel Hodgson.

And then there was Larry David singing Sherman's "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max."

Larry David sings "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max"

And of course Seinfeld's Jason Alexander gave me that dynamite blurb for Overweight Sensation, “Allan Sherman was the original. . . . brilliant wit, satirist beyond compare, and stand-up comic with a melody.” 

Plus, Alexander recorded "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max."

Then I found Paul Reiser of the hit series Mad About You telling a journalist that, “One of my greatest moments with my kids is sitting down and listening to ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.’ It’s still funny and it still works." 

And of course Adam Sandler's famous "Hanukkah Song" has been recognized as "the song put Sandler on a continuum with the likes of Jewish song parodist Allan Sherman."

So that's Rick Moranis, Seinfeld, Larry David, Jason Alexander, Paul Reiser, and Adam Sandler.

Not a bad list of Allan Sherman comedy students.

Have I missed anyone?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Boston Jewish Advocate Review: "Masterful"

My apologies for the quality of this scan, but the original review on the Jewish Advocate website is reserved for subscribers only.

The review is by Daniel Kimmel, past president and current member of the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Just click on the image for a larger and very readable image.

Thank you, Mr. Kimmel!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two new Photos/Videos postings!

Finally uploaded Sherman's Jewish parody of Cole Porter's "You're The Top"

And also an excerpt of my interview with Dr Demento about Overweight Sensation

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Allan Sherman's Spirit Lives on in New Comedy Album from Rick Moranis

With an album title like My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs, Rick Moranis of Ghostbusters fame hardly needed to say that Allan Sherman was one of his great comedy influences. 

But he did.

"When I first began writing jokes and sketches with various Jewish partners one of us would inevitably stop at some point and announce, "Too Jewish!" Too Jewish for the star, the show, the network, or the audience. The songs on this album are all in that category. I grew up hearing the Allan Sherman and the You Don't Have To Be Jewish albums in the 60s. Now I m in my 60s."

Brisket appears next week and the timing is perfect. 

This summer is the 50th anniversary of Sherman's Grammy Award-winning "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" summer camp song, and my biography of Sherman is out now and getting press on NPR's "All Things Considered," the Chicago Tribune, and more.

Even after a half-century, Sherman's influence lives on.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chicago Tribune Comes Through for Native Son

The "Printers Row" section of the Chicago Tribune is available only to subscribers, but you can click here to see a preview of the paper's positive and thorough review of Overweight Sensation, the biography of Chicago-born Allan Sherman.

The bottom line?

"lively and meticulously researched"

I'll take it!

It's almost as pithy as Allan Sherman's favorite line in junior high school,

"I shall reward your impertinence by striking you upon the cranium."

Search for Allan Segal, as Sherman was then known. 

And that's him in the top row, first on the right.

John Burroughs Junior High School BURR, 1938

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Listen to New Interview on NPR

Hear my interview with Robert Siegel of NPR's "All Things Considered" as we discuss my new Allan Sherman biography.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Overweight Sensation on NPR

I'll be on NPR's All Things Considered this Friday, May 31.

Please spread the word (and the cream cheese, of course).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

New "Goldeneh Moment" Song Parody -- Gypsy's "Small World"

"Small World" from Gypsy, by Jule Styne ("Styne with a y") and Stephen Sondheim becomes a Jewish song -- as if it was written by Jewish people.

I think this one will be popular. Maybe not as big a hit as "There Is Nothing Like A Lox" (23,500 views!), but big.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nice press for Overweight Sensation in Chicago Jewish News

Chicagoans can come to my talk on May 27 at 7pm at Max and Benny's Deli in Northbrook. The place is already filling up fast! RSVP to Richard Reeder at 

The author in repose (not typical)

First biography of Allan Sherman
(and people are loving it!)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sherman's "Summertime" Parody is Here!

This is the rarest and most obscure item I found in my research. 

It is not even mentioned on Sherman websites as a lost parody.

Enjoy "Summertime"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Great Review in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal

Book reviewer Jonathan Kirsch, a writer with impressive books and writerly credentials, just gave my book the review of my dreams in The Jewish Journal.

"'Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman'" by Mark Cohen (Brandeis, $29.95), a penetrating biography by a savvy observer of show business." 

Thank you, Jonathan, and thank you Jewish Journal!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Officially Released Today!

May 14, 2013 has arrived and the book is officially available!

And to celebrate, I've updated my Amazon page. Give it the once over!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Allan Sherman's Influence Lives On!

Just this minute learned that comic movie actor Rick Moranis will release next month an album inspired by his love of Allan Sherman.

The album is called My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs. And as he notes in the album review section on Amazon

With this album, Moranis goes back to where he started: "When I first began writing jokes and sketches with various Jewish partners one of us would inevitably stop at some point and announce, "Too Jewish!" Too Jewish for the star, the show, the network, or the audience. The songs on this album are all in that category. I grew up hearing the Allan Sherman and the You Don't Have To Be Jewishalbums in the 60s. Now I m in my 60s."

Allan Sherman's influence lives on.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

First Review of Overweight Sensation

Josh Lambert published the first review of Overweight Sensation. It appeared in yesterday.
Josh liked it.
"Fiddling with the lyrics of recognizable songs—transforming “Frère Jacques” into “Sarah Jackman” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” into “The Ballad of Harry Lewis”—the heavyset, bespectacled comic turned himself into a star, sold millions of albums, won a Grammy, and headlined concerts from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. (JFK was a fan.) He also managed to say something about the place of Jews in 1960s America.
"That’s why Sherman merits as scrupulous a biography as Mark Cohen has just given him, the appropriately corny-pun-titled Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman. And it’s why the rise and fall of a big, self-destructive funnyman fits into a series of otherwise serious academic monographs from Brandeis University Press."