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.


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.



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.”



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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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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