Meet Mallory Lewis
Mallory Lewis is the daughter of Shari Lewis, the woman who created the world-famous puppet Lamb Chop. Lamb Chop and Shari entertained several generations of young people with their charming banter and lively shows. Now following in her mother’s footstep, Mallory has partnered with Lamb Chop to entertain a whole new generation, as well as bring nostalgia back to those who grew up with Lamb Chop themselves.
Mallory has been deeply involved in children’s entertainment her entire life. A multiple Emmy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner for “Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series,” Lewis has an extensive background in all aspects of television production, including writing, producing, and performing. She began her career at age 12 working with her mother by ghostwriting for her newspaper column. After writing and producing for the Lamb Chop’s Play-Along show, Lewis assumed the responsibilities of her mother’s three prime-time variety specials, and served as executive story editor and producer of The Charlie Horse Music Pizza.
Following her mother’s death, Lewis began appearing with Lamb Chop at live and televised events, performing in more than 400 shows at such venues as The Magic Castle, Performing Arts Centers and aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. She has toured with the USO, entertaining the troops and their families around the world.
As an author, Lewis has penned 20 children’s novels, including the popular Adventurers Inc. and Zoey and Me series.
Q: How did you start ghostwriting for your mother’s newspaper column?
A: I was about 12 years old and I wanted a job. My mom needed help with her newspaper column so she asked me if I wanted to help. By the time I’d written the third column I asked her for a byline.
Q: Do others in your family write books?
A: My family is a family of writers. My grandfather wrote 20 books, my mom wrote 60 books, my father was a book publisher, my aunt is Judith Krantz (magazine journalist and best-selling author whose books have been made into mini-series), my uncle wrote many of the scripts for the TV series, The Love Boat, and I’ve written 20 books myself. My son writes too. He’d written his first screen play, about Batman and Superman, when he was four. I told him that Marvel comics might have some issues with it, but that was what he was into at the time. Then recently he started writing a novel about a young girl who had a necklace with 12 charms that represented the Greek gods. One day the Poseidon charmed glowed and the girl was covered in a bubble of water. That’s how the second chapter ended. It really left me wanting to know what happened next.
Q: What does it take to be a writer?
A: To be a writer you have to be a reader. You have to get the rhythm of it into your soul and your brain. You learn how to tell a story. Writing is like unfolding a flower. For example, you start with the sentence, “There was a girl named Marny.” Then you write, “She lived in a small town.” Next you write, “The town had a problem.” Each sentence is a layer that opens until you can see the whole flower.
Q: Why did you decide to stay in the field children’s entertainment?
A: It’s part of who I am. My family are writers and performers. For a while I rebelled, became the Eastern Regional Sales Manager for RCA/Columbia (Mallory Pictures Home Video but eventually I gave up fighting and got back to what I am — a writer, producer and performer.
Q: Did you play with Lamb Chop while you were growing up?
A: Lamb Chop would talk to me when I was a child. I could tell Lamb Chop anything. I would never get in trouble for anything I told Lamb Chop because I knew she would never tell my mom. Lamb Chop was always such a strong character. She’s always been part of the family. My son feels that way too. He works with me now. He started working with me when he was eight years old doing the set-up of my sound system and calling my music cues. It’s an important job because if the sound system isn’t right it can ruin a show. One day when he was nine we were in the car and he said to me, “Mom, I didn’t think Lamb Chop was as funny with that joke as she usually is.” Then he got a stricken look on his face and said, “Do you think she could hear me?”
Q: So Lamb Chop is a “person” in her own right?
A: She is. We’re not crazy, we know she’s not human, but she is a member of our family. It’s amazing, and I don’t think about it too much or analyze it, but there are things Lamb Chop can do that I can’t. When we record together Lamb Chop has perfect pitch. I don’t. I can’t hit a high C but somehow she can. She also speaks Spanish better than I do. Living in Southern California and spending time in Costa Rica I know some Spanish, but she’ll be chattering away in Spanish and sometimes I’ll have a bizarre moment when I think, “What is she saying?”
Q: How did you decided to work with Lamb Chop?
A: I was going around the country receiving posthumous awards for my mom after she died. People would write and ask if Lamb Chop was dead too. One day I brought Lamb Chop and slipped her into the podium. At the end of my speech I pulled her out. There was a gasp from the audience when they saw her. All Lamb Chop said was, “Thank you so much. Shari would be very proud.” I realized that Lamb chop was still alive and that I wanted to work with her.
Q: What is like working with Lamb Chop?
A: It’s a real blessing. She’s a star, so it gave me many opportunities that other performers who are starting out don’t have. The first show I did was Rosie O’Donnell. Another early show was to an audience of 20,000 people. Those kinds of audience are unusual for someone starting out.
Q: Do you work the same way as your mother or do you have a different style?
A: In the beginning I used to rehearse in the clothes that my mom wore to rehearsal, which wasn’t the best since I’m taller than she was, but I didn’t know which of the things she did mattered and which didn’t so I tried to be like her. Little by little I developed my own patterns and rhythms. We have a different stage style. Her show was tighter than mine. She was of a different generation, plus she had different tastes. For example, mom didn’t like to have children on stage with her. I find them hysterical, but they’re the X factor. You never know what they’re going to do. During one performance a 2-1/2 year old girl crawled up on the stage with me. I signaled to my sound guy to stop the music. I kneeled down to talk to her. The conversation went something like this —
ML: “Hi. Do you want to be in show business?”
This got the audience laughing.
ML: “You have a nice purse.”
Girl: “My mommy let me wear her purse. I have a lipstick.”
ML: “That’s a very pretty color.”
Then she pulled out something intimate.
Girl: “What’s this?”
ML: “I think that’s a good question for your mommy. She’s the one with the bright red face.”
By now the audience is crying from laughter. It was great fun.
At the same time, I do some things the way my mom did. One of the most important things I do is focus on the quality of the performance. My mom always insisted on having a proper sound check because without good sound a performance is ruined. Having a proper sound check is a rider* in my contract. The audience should have a good time and unless you have certain things done in a professional way the performance is bad and the audience loses.