Harry Julius Shearer (born December 23, 1943 in Los Angeles, California) is an American actor and Voice Actor famous for starring as Derek Smalls in This is Spın̈al Tap, as well as his voicework on The Simpsons, where he played many characters including squeaky-clean religious neighbor Ned Flanders, cynical preacher Reverend Timothy Lovejoy, school principal and Shell-Shocked Veteran who still lives with — and is being controlled by — his mother, Seymour Skinnernote , evil nuclear plant owner Charles Montgomery Burns and his increasingly Transparent Closet, sycophantic assistant Waylon Smithersnote , Bill Cosby Expy and the town's only competent doctor Dr. Julius Hibbert, sarcastic, often unprofessional news anchor Kent Brockman, Homer's friend and plant coworker Lenford "Lenny" Leonard, Grandpa Simpson's elderly vitriolic best friend Jasper Beardley, stoner bus driver Otto Mann, and Arnold Schwarzenegger Expy Rainier Wolfcastlenote .
He has also hosted the satirical NPR series Le Show since 1983.
Shearer entered show business as a child actor, appearing in the film The Robe and on such TV programs as The Jack Benny Program and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as the pilot of Leave It to Beaver. After attending college at UCLA and grad school at Harvard, he briefly worked as a staffer in the California state legislature and a high school English teacher before appearing with the satirical radio comedy troupe The Credibility Gap in the early '70s. Later in the decade worked as a writer for the Fernwood Tonight retool America 2-Night and helped pen the screenplay for Albert Brooks' film Real Life.
Shearer was a writer and cast member for Saturday Night Live during its fifth (197980) season, then returned during season ten (198485), Dick Ebersol's final season as show runner before Lorne Michaels's return; Shearer can thus be regarded as the Grover Cleveland of SNL note . Shearer's reason for leaving SNL during its tenth season (mid-season): Creative Differences (in his words, "I was creative, they were different.") Most of the celebrity impressions he did on SNL were transferred to The Simpsons: his Vin Scully impression was heard on "Krusty Gets Kancelled" and sounds very similar to Kent Brockman, his Ronald Reagan impression and mannerisms are the basis for Mr. Burns, and his Rod Serling impression was used on the "Treehouse of Horror" special featuring the story of Bart using his God-like powers to make everyone in town bow to his whims, which parodied the The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's a Good Life".
In May 2015, it was announced that he would be leaving The Simpsons as of its twenty-seventh season. In July of that year, however, the show's producers announced that they'd struck a deal with Shearer and he would remain in the cast.
Tropes applying to Harry Shearer:
- The Comically Serious: Shearer's authoritative Badass Baritone voice makes him the go-to for Simpsons characters who are humorously straitlaced and uptight, such as Principal Skinner and Smithers.
- Creator Backlash:
I have a very simple belief about acting. The job of the actor is to play someone who they are not.
- Has vocally condemned the infamous The Simpsons episode "The Principal and the Pauper" for "tossing (Principal Skinner's character) in the trash can for no good reason."
- He was also quite critical of the show's decision to recast all non-white characters with people of color, noting that a major point of acting is being able to play characters outside the actor's natural range.
- Former Child Star: As mentioned above, Shearer started out as a child actor in the '50s.
- He Also Did:
- Man of a Thousand Voices: The number of Simpsons characters listed above are a mere handful of those he, Dan Castellaneta and Hank Azaria play.
- Money, Dear Boy: His reason for remaining on The Simpsons, despite his contention that the show's quality has been going downhill since season fournote
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: In a particular "Treehouse of Horror"'s credits, all of the members of the core voice actors have Halloween pun names...except Shearer.
- Talking to Himself: Happens regularly on Simpsons, most notably in the case of Mr. Burns and Smithers, who almost always speak to each other when they both appear, but Smithers's "secret" crush on Mr. Burns and his backhanded flirty comments make Shearer notable as one of the few voice actors to hit on themselves.
- What Could Have Been:
- During his first time on Saturday Night Live, Harry Shearer begged NBC to make him the new executive producer after Lorne Michaels announced that he would be leaving and that Al Franken was rejected for his "Limo For the Lame-O" report on Weekend Update. NBC said no, and that's how Jean Doumanian was picked to be season six's showrunner.
- He was in the original pilot for Leave It to Beaver and potentially could have been that show's High-School Hustler in lieu of Ken Osmond's Eddie Haskell. It's not quite a The Other Marty or The Other Darrin situation because he didn't play Eddie Haskell but rather a very similar character named Frankie Bennett.