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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…