Harry Shearer

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 12 07:22:30 MST 2003

NY Times, Jan. 12, 2003

Taking Apart Politics (While Playing all the Parts)

Man, you still good!" chortles James Carville. He is listening to Bill 
Clinton juggle telephone calls from an achingly clueless Al Gore and a 
desperate Tom Daschle, admiring the silk-smooth Clinton's effortless 
evasions. Help the party? Clinton's gone solo: he's jetting to England to 
see his pal Tony Blair and renew an acquaintance with an actress who 
auditioned to play Xena. "I have to be out there where the game is played," 
Clinton tells his former political consultant. "Mark of a pro."

Of course, it's not really Carville. Nor is it Clinton, Gore or Daschle. 
The voices — and the peerless ability to poke and pull at the masks of 
public figures, exposing the insatiable egos beneath — are all Harry 
Shearer, on his radio program, "Le Show." For a cadre of listeners around 
the world, Mr. Shearer's cutting wit, broad musical tastes and unfailingly 
subversive approach have made "Le Show" a weekly ritual for 20 years.

"He's not only the best political satirist around," said the writer, 
publisher and veteran pundit Paul Krassner, who has performed with and 
known Mr. Shearer since the mid-80's, "but there hasn't been anyone since 
Lenny Bruce producing these little theater pieces and playing all the 
parts. I edited Bruce's autobiography, and when anyone asks me who follows 
in his footsteps, I say it's Harry."

A writer, director and actor, Mr. Shearer, 59, is most widely known for his 
work on the rock spoof "This Is Spinal Tap" and for doing the voices of 
about half of the supporting characters on "The Simpsons" (including 
Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Lenny and Dr. Hibbert). 
His first feature film as a director, "Teddy Bears' Picnic," was released 
last year. Listeners to the hourlong "Le Show" are apt to hear Mr. Shearer 
portray whoever is in the news. Along with the Clinton crew, he creates 
phone conversations between Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. — a feature dubbed "41 
Calls 43" — and diary entries from the vice president's secret, secure 
location ("Dick Cheney Confidential").

A news junkie and obsessive media observer, Mr. Shearer has outfitted his 
Los Angeles home with enough satellite equipment to pull down station feeds 
and off-air conversations, and he takes a special pleasure in mimicking the 
likes of Tom Brokaw and Larry King and poking fun at his own network, 
National Public Radio. ("Le Show" originates on KCRW-FM, 89.9, in Santa 
Monica and is heard on 88 stations, including WNYE-FM, 91.5, in New York.) 
Some of the program's most entertaining and revealing moments come when Mr. 
Shearer simply shares things he's found on the satellite, like a befuddled 
Dan Rather off-air, or Charlie Rose working as a shill at a Coca-Cola 
stockholders meeting. The essence of Mr. Shearer's comedy is getting behind 
the public facade: he catches people being themselves or suggests what 
they're likely to be saying behind closed doors.


Ruth Seymour at KCRW said: "Harry is adventurous and daring, all of the 
things that have been in great danger on public radio since the emergence 
of radio consultants."

Indeed, at a time when smart comedy on public radio is defined by the 
wistful and sentimental Garrison Keillor of "A Prairie Home Companion" or 
the cuddly and self-congratulatory musings of Sarah Vowell on "This 
American Life," Mr. Shearer is still climbing out on a limb. When America 
mobilized for the invasion of Afghanistan, Mr. Shearer unleashed a 
ferocious "41 Calls 43" sketch in which his George W. declared himself 
stoked. "I haven't felt this focused," he told his father, "since the 
fourth time I quit drinking."

"I never understood tying your sense of humor behind your back," said Mr. 
Shearer, who picks on whoever is in power. "If you're in this business, 
it's your job to make fun of the guy who's got the biggest collection of 
guns. That's the job. I don't care what his approval rating is and he 
doesn't care what mine is, so we're even."

Mark of a pro.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/12/arts/12GOOD.html

Shearer's shows are archived at: http://www.harryshearer.com

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