Getting to know Harry Shearer
A few short months ago, if someone had asked me about Harry Shearer, I’d have replied, “He’s one of the people that does voices on The Simpsons.” That would have been the sum total of my knowledge about the man.
It turns out he is much more than that.
Shearer, 67, provides the voice for many characters on The Simpsons including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Timothy Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Dr. Hibbert, Lenny Leonard, Principal Skinner, Otto Mann and Rainier Wolfcastle. (Source: Wikipedia.)
He also played Derek Smalls in the Grammy-nominated “parody fictional heavy metal band” Spinal Tap, and played the same role in the movie This Is Spinal Tap.
Shearer is an actor, comedian, writer, voice artist, musician, author, radio host and director.
He was also a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live.
Since 1983, Shearer has been the host of the public radio comedy/music program Le Show on Santa Monica’s NPR-affiliated radio station, KCRW. The program is a hodgepodge of satirical news commentary, music, and sketch comedy that takes aim at the “mega morons of the mighty media.” (Source: Wikepedia.)
Le Show is how I recently got to know Harry Shearer. (As a fan. I’ve never met the guy.)
One Sunday afternoon while driving home from a weekend trip, my wife fell asleep and I turned on the radio to my favorite NPR station. A radio program I’d never heard before was in progress. The longer I listened, the more I was intrigued. “Is that the guy from The Simpsons“, I wondered.
Back home, I researched on the net and discovered Le Show. It’s an hour-long weekly broadcast. I immediately subscribed to it as a podcast on iTunes and I’ve been listening to it religiously ever since.
After a few weekly listens, I really started to get into it. Le Show is a combination of news and comedy.
In the news bits, Shearer reads actual news stories. The good part, though, is his incredulous disdain for the crap that he’s reading. He’ll inject a snide comment, a snarky aside, or skewer some official’s laughable statement. In one case, and I’m paraphrasing from memory here, while reading a story about a nuclear energy plant leak, he said something like, “Radiation found in water near a nuclear plant. Imagine that!”
Shearer seems to have an uncanny ability to smell out news of the ridiculous. Shearer breaks down the news into segments (that he calls “copyrighted features of this broadcast”) including:
- Our Friend the Atom: Shearer performs a watchdog function by highlighting news stories that focus on the ineptitude of the nuclear power industry. This segment includes a catchy little jingle with the words, “Clean, Safe, Too Cheap to Meter.”
- Apologies of the Week: A very entertaining look at the art of taking responsibility (or not) of those who do really dumbass things. This is truly an art form.
- News of the Olympic Movement: Recent coverage looked at badminton dress codes – for women only – at the 2012 games. The skirts-only policy was intended to boost flagging audiences for the women’s game. Another story covered looked at “Nazi imagery” used to promote the upcoming Winter Olympic Games to be hosted by Russia. Bonus: He even jokes about the Olympics being a “movement” if you know what I’m saying.
- Tales of Airport Security: Self-explanatory.
- News of the Warm: Shearer reads news about climate change. (In deference to Bill Maher I’m no longer referring to it as “global warming.”)
Le Show also includes comedy and skits with voices primarily performed by Shearer.
I look forward to Le Show every week. The program is entertaining and informative, which is pretty much the goal of my blog, too. If I ever did a weekly podcast I would be thrilled if it was similar to Le Show and contained at least one percent of the talent. I want to be more like Harry Shearer. Thank God he’s out there doing what I can’t.
For more information:
Harry Shearer Official Website
Le Show Website
Le Show podcast on iTunes