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WTF Harry Shearer

11 Things We Learned About Harry Shearer From His ‘WTF’ Episode

Harry Shearer

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Harry Shearer, best known for his work on The Simpsons, This is Spinal Tap, and Saturday Night Live, recently sat down with Marc Maron on the WTF Podcast to discuss his new series “Nixon’s the One,” now airing on YouTube.

He also managed to touch upon his early days in the business, his rocky relationships with fellow comedians, and his perfectionist nature. This episode was, in the immortal words of Mr. Burns, “excellent.”  Here are a few of the highlights.

11. John Belushi Once Tried to Force Him to Drink

You’re forgiven if you don’t remember Harry Shearer’s first stint on Saturday Night Live — he joined the show in 1979 but was initially kept out of the opening credits. Shearer later found out from Bill Murray that Lorne Michaels failed to inform the cast that he was hired as a writer/performer, and not just a writer, which caused some tension when everyone wondered why Shearer was writing roles for himself. The future This Is Spinal Tap star also recalls a time when the late John Belushi literally tried to force him to drink some booze.

Belushi


10. Dick Ebersol Was More Wide World of Sports Than SNL

After Lorne Michaels left SNL, Harry Shearer came back to the cast during the 1984-1985 “celebrity” season that included stars like Billy Crystal and Martin Short. According to Shearer, Dick Ebersol, who was running SNL at the time, once put $50 on a camera, and told cast members Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary Gross that the first one to flash him would get the reward. He says that Mr. Ebersol, coming from the world of broadcast sports, seemed to think this was funny.

NBC.com

NBC.com


9. He No Longer Speaks to Albert Brooks

Shearer has trouble accepting his reputation as being difficult, even though he admits to falling out with former friends and collaborators Albert Brooks and Michael McKean. For instance, he says the reason he and Albert no longer speak dates back to a disagreement about the movie Real Life, which they co-wrote. Harry was supposed to co-star, but Albert said he couldn’t picture him as anyone but himself. Harry was not pleased.


8. The Voice of Mr. Burns Was Once a Child Star

Prior to comedy, Shearer got his start as an actor at the age of 7, booking his first audition for The Jack Benny Program. He never planned to continue acting as a grown-up, instead hoping to teach, become a journalist or work in politics. He actually ended up doing all three on some level, including covering the Moon landing and the Watts Riots for Newsweek.

Bare Bones e-Zine

Bare Bones e-Zine


7. The Beach Boys Helped Him Avoid the Draft 

Harry escaped being drafted into the Vietnam War by hiring the Beach Boys’ lawyer, who had successfully gotten them out of serving as well.

Shalom Life

Shalom Life


6. He’s Got a Voice for Radio

In the late ’70s, Harry chose joining the cast of Saturday Night Live over becoming the first host of NPR’s Morning Edition in 1979. He would later work with the radio station, recording his long running “Le Show” at KCRW in Los Angeles.

Le Show


5. The Members of Spinal Tap (and Monty Python) Don’t Get Along

Even though we wish it weren’t true, Shearer confirmed that he isn’t exactly best pals with the rest of the Spinal Tap gang these days. Bursting our comedy bubble even further, Shearer revealed that the only reason Monty Python recently reunited is that they lost a lucrative lawsuit, and that they all secretly hate each other. He declined to speak further on it, but claimed two members told him this separately.

Spinal Tap 1

Spinal Tap 2


4. He appeared on one of the few hostless SNL episodes

When he returned to SNL during the 1984 season, Shearer tried to convince Dick Ebersol that the show didn’t need a guest host every week and could survive on the power of its cast. The first episode of the season was subsequently host free, and featured the classic Shearer/Christopher Guest/Martin Short sychronized swimming sketch. But a week later, guests hosts returned. Hey, it is SNL after all.

SNL Synchronized Swimming


3. He had some hilarious SNL parting words

Harry left Saturday Night Live for the second, and final time, in the winter of 1985. He told the AP that he left for creative differences. “I was creative, and they were different.”

Grantland/NBC

Grantland/NBC


2. He was a driving force behind The Simpsons‘ cast pay raise

Harry says that he is both overpaid and underpaid as a performer for The Simpsons. Overpaid, because it’s ridiculous how much money he makes for doing something he loves, but underpaid because of the amount of money parent company Fox makes off of it. He also helped the cast organize for their recent salary negotiations.


1. He learned upright bass from a rock legend

While Harry taught himself how to play bass, he says Jim Fielder from Blood, Sweat & Tears taught him how to play upright bass for “The Folksmen,” a Saturday Night Live sketch that would eventually evolve into the film A Mighty Wind.

Check out the episode on the WTF Podcast site to find out why Harry believes comedians get into comedy, how he met Albert Brooks, and what legendary Looney Tunes voice Mel Blanc once gave him.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.