The Cornuzine Interviews: Harry Shearer
What can you say about Harry Shearer? He co-created Spinal Tap, wrote and performed on “Saturday Night Live,” had a memorable cameo in Wayne’s World 2, appeared in the 1994 Martin Short / Danny Glover comedy Pure Luck, and played Murray Sports in The Fish That Saved Pittsburg. On top of all that, Harry’s been with “The Simpsons” since the show began, giving life to such beloved characters as Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Principal Skinner, Lenny Leonard, Ranier Wolfcastle, and Kent Brockman.
In short, the man in a legend. So what the hell was Harry Shearer doing talking to me and my small-time waste of bandwidth five years ago?
I have no idea. I guess Harry’s just one of those celebrities you’d call “fan friendly.” That worked out in Cornuzine’s benefit, providing my rinky-dink website with its most prominent interview subject ever. So hats off to Harry Shearer. Hopefully this interview didn’t lead to whispers of slumming or his star fading. Read on to learn about Harry’s musical leanings, what he remembers of his experiences on “Leave It To Beaver” (Shearer played Eddie Haskell in the pilot episode), and who in his opinion was the weirdest “Simpsons” guest star.
HARRY SHEARER: HANDSOME DAN & BEYOND
JAMES GREENE JR: You don’t strike me as the type of guy who particularly enjoys heavy metal. Do you have any appreciation for it (beyond its unintentional ridiculousness) or has it always seemed like a really bad joke to you?
HARRY SHEARER: More of the latter, although it is fun to play.
JG2: Mmm. When I was watching the “Inside The Actors Studio” with the cast of “The Simpsons,” I couldn’t help but notice that Julie Kavner wasn’t around for the second half of the show. Did she get sick or something?
HS: She had a train to catch. The taping ran almost six hours.
JG2: Six hours?!? That’s insane! Did it irk you at all, sitting their for that long talking as Ranier Wolfcastle and the like, or did you enjoy it?
HS: Irked and enjoyed, at different points in the proceedings.
JG2: I was reading on your website that you were banned from the Fox News Channel because of your book It’s The Stupidity, Stupid. I hadn’t heard anything about this. Care to explain just what happened?
HS: It’s a long story, but, in an interview on MSNBC (what was I thinking?), they bumped to commercial with a quote from the book comparing Dick Morris’ proclivity for sucking hookers’ toes (remember that?) to his working for Rupert Murdoch. Either Roger Ailes or his number one flunky saw that, took great offense (although Morris also works for Murdoch’s New York Post), and had my pending appearances to discuss the book on FNC cancelled.
JG2: That’s totally lame. The Dick Morris thing isn’t even that controversial. What a pisser. Moving on – you screen tested for the role of Eddie Haskell. Do you have any idea why they didn’t pick you? You couldn’t have been that bad, because you did end up on one or two episodes of “Leave It To Beaver,” didn’t you?
HS: I don’t think I ever did any episodes of “Beaver,” and I don’t know whether I wasn’t picked or whether my parents, after I shot the pilot, decided it was a bad idea for me to co-star in a show. I know they felt that way, but I don’t know whether they withdrew me from consideration.
JG2: Did they not want you to miss your childhood or get completely warped from being on a t.v. show that young?
HS: They didn’t want me to costar in a show. They were cool with me working occasionally.
JG2: Ah. One of the highlights of Wayne’s World 2 was your appearance as Handsome Dan. I could literally watch that part for hours. I’d go so far as to say that made me laugh harder than any part of This Is Spinal Tap. How does that make you feel? I mean, do people ever tell you that they love Handsome Dan?
HS: Yeah, somebody’s told me about loving virtually everything I’ve done. That one was kind of weird, because it involved reprising, in a slimmed down way, a sketch I’d done years earlier on SNL, and I always feel weird repeating myself that way. I always feel weird repeating myself that way.
JG2: On “The Simpsons,” do you ever record your voice work along side the guest stars? If so, have there been any memorable exchanges between yourself and one of the show’s guests?
HS: Usually the guests show up on their own schedule. Weirdest one to show up with us was, natch, Michael Jackson, who did the speaking part himself, but had an MJ impersonator do the singing in the show. I guess we weren’t paying him enough.
JG2: Of all the people that I’d think would come whenever he pleased…speaking of that business, has anyone ever asked you to call up their kids as Mr. Burns or Ned Flanders for a birthday or anything? Have you ever called someone as a Simpsons character just to screw with their minds?
JG2: Okay! You once stated that you enjoy any bass line Victor Wooten plays. Color me ignorant, but just who is this Victor Wooten? Please, provide me with some quick information on this favorite bass player of yours.
HS: He’s a remarkable player, usually seen with Bela Fleck’s band.
JG2: A Flecktone! You also like the Beatles, don’t you? What do you think of the fact that Paul and Ringo are still out there playing?
HS: Yes, I’m a fan. I think it’s great they’re still playing, what are they supposed to do, write letters to The Times of London?
JG2: Yes, that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do! Finally, was that your real mustache in This Is Spinal Tap?
HS: It was real in the sense that, yes, it was growing on my face at the time.
– Cornuzine.com, 6/3/03
Relayed to me sometime before the preceding interview for a much smaller, less significant feature:
1. McCartney’s on “Lady Madonna”
2. Whoever played with Robert Kraft on “a song for miles”
3. Horace Silver’s bass player on “Senor Blues”
4. Anything Victor Wooten plays
5. George Porter Jr.’s part on The Meters’ “Hey Pocky Way”
Why? Because, as Harry noted, “they swing.”