By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
In 1953, Harry Shearer played a crippled boy in the Richard Burton vehicle The Robe. That same year he landed a small part in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, and he was off and running. ”That’s range,“ says Shearer, of his show-biz debut. ”I‘ve spent the rest of my life filling in in-between.“
Shearer, a Los Angeles native, is heard hereabouts every Sunday at 10 a.m. on his radio program of political punditry, Le Show, on KCRW. Internationally, Shearer is best-known as Derek Smalls, bassist with the satirical metal band Spinal Tap. Introduced in 1984 in the mock documentary directed by Rob Reiner, This Is Spinal Tap, the band has attracted a devoted cult following and plays this Friday to a sold-out house at the Greek Theater. Opening will be Spinal Tap’s alter ego, the Folksmen, a trio that debuted locally with Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest in April as part of the Harry Smith tribute presented at UCLA.
Shearer recently wrote and directed Teddy Bears Picnic, a spoof of the Bohemian Grove, a nature retreat for blueblood millionaires that was established in Northern California several decades ago. Starring Fred Willard, McKean, George Wendt, Henry Gibson and Morgan Fairchild, the film is currently being shopped for a distributor. In his spare time, Shearer provides multiple voices every week to The Simpsons, and is at work on a comic novel about Indians and gambling.
”Anybody who says they enjoy writing is full of shit -- it‘s lonely and hard,“ says Shearer, who lives on the Westside with his wife, musician Judith Owen, and a dog named Victor.
L.A. Weekly: What’s the most annoying thing about Los Angeles?
Harry Shearer: The thing that immediately comes to mind is the traffic, but because I‘m a local I pride myself on knowing how to not use the freeway and get where I’m going. The next most annoying thing is the vast, continuing influx of New Yorkers and their ilk who come to Los Angeles for what they think will be brief periods of time, stay way too long, never develop any roots, and then complain about the lack of community in Los Angeles. I‘m perfectly happy with people who come from other places and want to be here -- that’s what makes a place come together -- but these complaining parasites are deeply annoying.
Every week on Le Show you sift through the blizzard of media and present a cogent analysis of recent news events. How do you find out what‘s really going on? What are the news sources you trust?
You start by not believing what you hear on television. I spend an hour or two every day reading news, and the more places you turn for information, the greater the likelihood that you’ll find something true -- and not necessarily because you‘ll arrive at a consensus-based opinion, because that, too, can be a lie. But, in a world this big, with this many people having at least small megaphones, some usable information does get through. I also try to make imaginative leaps, and always bear in mind that local news tends to be sensationalized. Here’s my theory as to why that is: The most desirable audience for advertisers, especially advertisers in local television, is young people just forming households because they‘re buying the most stuff, and they’re believed to be the least brand loyal. If they‘re just forming households and having kids, they’re hard-wired by nature to be at their most paranoid, because having children brings out paranoia in people. ”Are you strapped in??!!“ ”You mean he wasn‘t at school??!!“ So, how do you get those people to watch your news? By airing shows like ”Three Things in Your Kitchen That Could Kill,“ tonight at 11.
If you had the opportunity to eliminate one of the following, which would you choose: leaf blowers, police helicopters or car alarms?
Car alarms, basically on the grounds of utility. Police helicopters actually may accomplish something for the police from time to time -- I don’t think they‘re always just joy riding. Leaf blowers are a stupid way to do something, but they still do something. I don’t know the last time a person heard a car alarm and exclaimed, ”Oh my God! Somebody‘s stealing my neighbor’s car! I should go see what‘s going on! I could prevent a crime!“ Car alarms don’t rouse citizens to protective action.
Knowing what we know about how they affect the environment, why are educated yuppies driving around in gigantic SUVs?
Selfishness and vanity win. This is a generation that wants to deny that it‘s aging, so the idea of buying a station wagon to drive its kids around is anathema. Here’s something that‘s sporty and kinda young -- but it’s still for carting around your kids. The fantasy is that you‘re four-wheeling it up the dirt road, but you’re actually taking the kid to private school. That, I think, is the essence of it -- they appeal to the vanity of people.