10 Questions with Harry Shearer
Harry Shearer began acting at the age of seven at the suggestion of his piano teacher-turned-agent. He made his film debut in the classic Abbott and Costello Go To Mars and had a small role in the first Cinemascope movie, The Robe.
The brilliant Harry Shearer
He appeared often on The Jack Benny Show as a child, and also acted in GE Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and played the role of Eddie Haskell in the pilot episode of Leave It To Beaver.
In the Seventies, Harry was a founding member of one of the great counter-culture comedy troupes, The Credibility Gap, which featured the first (and still finest) parody of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show ever recorded. The other members of the group were the late, great Richard Beebe, David L. Lander (who went on to become "Squiggy" in Laverne and Shirley), and Michael McKean ("Lenny" in Laverne and Shirley, and co-member of Spinal Tap). Harry recently reunited with McKean and Lander for the group's 25th anniversary reunion.
Harry was a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live for two seasons, where he and Martin Short created the funniest Olympic synchronized swimming skit of all time (not that there are a lot of those).
He gained national recognition as one of the creators and stars of This Is Spinal Tap, where he portrayed heavy metalist Derek Smalls in the mock rockumentary. In 1992, he returned as Derek in A Spinal Tap Reunion: The 25th Anniversary London Sell-Out.
Harry is also known as the voices of Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Reverend Lovejoy, Smithers and Ned Flanders on The Simpsons. He has also voiced Scratchy, Otto the bus driver, Jebediah Springfield, God, the Devil, and Hitler.
Burns and Smithers
His film performances include roles in The Right Stuff, The Fisher King, Wayne's World II, The Truman Show, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, EdTV, Godzilla and My Best Friend's Wedding. Recently he portrayed G. Gordon Liddy in Dick.
In addition to his big screen performances, Harry's skills as an actor, director and writer have been showcased on film, cable television, network television, radio and personal appearances. His television work has included Politically Incorrect, Martin Mull's Portrait of a White Marriage, HBO Comedy Hour Live: The Magic of Live, Fernwood 2 Night, Ellen, Murphy Brown, LA Law and The News Hole (for which he won an Ace Award in 1995).
TEN QUESTIONS (PLUS TWO)
SportsHollywood: What's your favorite sports movie?
Shearer (left) as Derek Smalls in "Spinal Tap"
SHEARER: I haven't seen many--I'd rather watch real sports than fiction movies about them--so I guess my answer would be The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh. Okay, I know, it sucked, but I got to spend a month in Pittsburgh (I played a small part in it), I got to work with Jonathan Winters (he played a big part in it), and I got to see what happens to a film when too many of its creators spend every night of the shoot tooting up.
SportsHollywood: What is the worst sports movie ever made?
SHEARER: (See above answer.)
SportsHollywood: Which is harder to voice on The Simpsons: God, the Devil, or Hitler?
SHEARER: They are all my children...
SportsHollywood: Do you have a favorite L.A. sports memory?
SHEARER: Two. Being in New York, staying up until 2:30 in the morning to watch the ridiculously tape-delayed CBS telecast of Game 6 of the 1980 playoffs, and running into an almost empty Sixth Avenue to celebrate when Magic (and Jamaal Wilkes) led the Lakers to the championship over Philly. The second was of course Magic's hook over the Celtics in the Garden. Actually, I'd have to add being in Staples when the Lakers spotted Portland 15 in the third quarter of that playoff game this Spring and roared back to win it. One more: not being a baseball fan, going to the, I think, '78 World Series at Dodger Stadium, and infuriating my serious fan friends by catching a souvenir Series foul ball.
SportsHollywood: Did you play ball on the "Coney Island Whitefish" with Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest?
SHEARER: Chris talked me into playing some softball for a while, even bought me a bat (!), but, just as in school, I ended up whiling away my mornings in right field, and eventually lost interest.
SportsHollywood: You performed in perhaps the greatest Saturday Night Live skit of all time, the men's synchronized swimming documentary, with Martin Short. Any chance that Gerald and Lawrence will return for the next Olympics?
SHEARER: Obviously, they've got a lot of training to do, since they're not used to a venue where the pool water drains counter-clockwise.
SportsHollywood: Should any performance that requires show tunes really be considered an Olympic sport?
SHEARER: No. Nor any performance that requires the participants to wear makeup.
SportsHollywood: In your book, Man Bites Town, you express your love for basketball. Do you still play?
SHEARER: Yes, as often as humanly possible. This despite the fact that I've sustained ACL damage in both knees. But I'm very disciplined about my physical therapy. Besides, I invested all that money in going to Magic's "Executive" Camp in Maui three times, where Jerry West finally taught me how to shoot the damn ball, so I can't quit now.
SportsHollywood: Will the Lakers repeat?
SHEARER: Sooner than the Knicks will.
SportsHollywood: Name five Clippers.
SHEARER: Past or present? Past is easy: Kiki Vandeweghe, Marques Johnson, Norm Nixon, Pooh Richardson, Stanley Roberts. Present: Donald Sterling.
SportsHollywood: Should the Dodgers just finally give in to the fans and end the games after the fifth inning, so they can all see the entire game and still go home early?
SHEARER: My only opinion about the Dodgers is that, once Rupert bought them, all hope was lost. I predicted at the time (when five Cuban players had just taken a boat to Miami) that the next players to use that method to escape their torment would be Dodgers.
SportsHollywood: What athlete would you like to portray in a film?
SHEARER: Willie Shoemaker. I'm almost the right size.
Interview by Jeff Hause.
Harry is an actor, director, radio host, comedian, and author. His book, Man Bites Town: Notes of a Man Who Doesn't Take Notes, collects his views on sports, politics, and life in Los Angeles. Visit his web site here.
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