She was best known as the original puppeteer and voice of the sock puppet Lamb Chop, which first appeared on Captain Kangaroo in March 1956. The character gained further popularity with The Shari Lewis Show and got its own children's show in 1992, Lamb Chop's Play-Along. Other characters she created and used in her shows included Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy.
Shari passed away on August 2, 1998, after developing viral pneumonia, while undergoing chemotherapy for uterine cancer, putting an abrupt end to the Lamb Chop's Play Along spinoff show Charlie Horse Music Pizza. Her daughter Mallory Lewis (née Tarcher) reprised the puppeteering and voicing of Lamb Chop in live shows, festivals and some TV appearances afterwards.
Tropes from her characters and works:
- Ambiguously Jewish: Lamb Chop has a distinct "Fanny Brice" quality to her voice — it might be Fridge Brilliance, since lamb is perfectly kosher (and the meat that was traditionally eaten for the Passover seder, or meal, in ancient Israel). There were eventually Hanukkah and Passover Lamb Chop's Play-Along specials on video confirming that Shari (who was Jewish in real life) and the puppets all celebrate both holidays.
- Bleached Underpants: Her early Lamb Chop performances could be surprisingly edgy and adult compared to the wholesome PBS preschool show we know today. As seen here, Lamb Chop was often portrayed as an alcoholic Dirty Kid who dropped profanity and lusted over celebrities such as Tom Jones and Burt Reynolds, while Shari would sometimes casually sing about eating sheep meat in front of her own puppet!
- A Pig Named "Porkchop": "Lamb Chop".
- "Sesame Street" Cred: She appeared with Lamb Chop on Sesame Street in Episode 3525, in May 1996.
- She Also Did: Along with her husband Jeremy Tarcher, she wrote an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Lights of Zetar".
- Sweet Sheep: Lamb Chop of course, a female anthropomorphic lamb who's very playful and friendly while sometimes a bit snarky.