Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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If you want to maintain a long career in Hollywood, having a good voice can keep you employed. While most voice actors tend to remain anonymous, there are some that are quite well known. One of the most well known voice actors is Harry Shearer, who has been a voice on “The Simpsons” for over 30 years, joining after the show debuted. Shearer also has plenty of live action work to his nae, and has been a highly decorated actor throughout his career.
Shearer comes by way of Los Angeles, where he was born just a couple of days before Christmas in 1943. Shearer grew up in the city, and even stayed there for college when he attended UCLA, but decided to head to the opposite coast and attend Harvard University. Shearer was teaching at this time, and had aspirations of being a news anchor, as well as a writer. The latter would be something that Shearer did quite frequently with his career.
Shear was just a child when he got his start in acting. In 1953, he made his first TV appearance on “The Jack Benny Program”, and during the rest of the 1950s had guest appearances on shows like “Leave It to Beaver”, “Private Secretary” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. During this same time, Shearer also had backup roles in the movies “Abbott and Costello Go to Mars”, “The Robe” and “Peter Pan”.
It would be nearly 20 years before Shearer had acted once again. “My parents didn’t want me to be a regular in a series,” Shearer said. “I was a working actor from time to time but they thought that was a little too much being a star of a series. They wanted me to have a slightly more normal childhood.”
In 1977, he had cameo roles in “American Raspberry” and “Cracking Up”, while also lending his voice to characters in the first “Star Wars” film. To round out the 1970s, Shearer was in “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” and “Real Life”, which he helped to write. During this time, Shearer was also a frequent guest star on “Laverne & Shirley”, adding other guest appearances along the way.
Shearer became part of the “Saturday Night Live” team in 1979, acting as both a writer and an actor. He was in one season during that time, and then came back for another season in the middle of the 1980s, taking part in nearly 40 episodes. Shearer started lending his voice more often to productions in the 1980s in TV movies and specials, as well as an appearance on “Miami Vice”.
One of Sherer’s most memorable roles came in 1984 when he played Derek Smalls in the mockumentary film “This Is Spinal Tap”, which is considered to be among the greatest comedy films ever made and was something that Shearer helped to write. “‘Spinal Tap’ began as a mock rock band that we four - Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and myself - developed for an appearance on a TV pilot at the end of the 1970s,” Shearer said. “On our own initiative, we wrote and recorded most of the songs and performed them live in several music clubs around L.A. before any cameras rolled.”
His other 1980s films included “Plain Clothes”, “The Right Stuff” and “One Trick Pony”. During the 1990s, Shearer had small parts in a lot of memorable films. This included “The Truman Show”, “Wayne’s World 2” and “A League of Their Own”. His biggest role at the time came in the 1998 remake of “Godzilla” starring Matthew Broderick. Of course, this was also the time in which Shearer had the most memorable job of his career.
Shearer joined the cast of “The Simpsons”, which has now been on the air for more than 30 yaers. Shearer takes on several roles with the show, including popular characters like Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner. It’s not easy to find that kind of stability on television, and it’s made Shearer a very wealthy man.
Shearer had plenty of guest appearances in the 1990s on television, as well. He popped up in the shows “Friends”, “Ellen” and “L.A. Law” just to name a few. Since the new millennium started, most of Shearer’s TV focus has been on “The Simpsons”, but he’s made some guest appearances on other shows such as “Family Guy”, “The Kumars” and “Outnumbered”.
There have also been several films for Shearer since the 2000s started. He had roles in early decade films with “A Mighty Wind” and “Chicken Little”. Since then, Shearer has also been in “For Your Consideration” and, of course, “The Simpsons Movie”. More recently, Shearer has been involved with “Mascots” and “Father Figures” alongside Owen Wilson and Ed Helms.
Shearer knows that it takes a special talent to be able to lend your voice to a show or a movie. You can’t just pop into the studio and start talking. “You have to do real acting,” Shearer said. “Not just do a voice.”
“The Simpsons” isn’t just a successful show, either, it’s become a part of pop culture history. “We’re very pleased to be on a show which is known and loved around the world,” Shearer said. “I never wanted to do a regular sitcom, because I’d be incredibly bored doing the same character week in, week out. But the beauty of ‘The Simpsons’ is that it’s 15, 16, 17 characters. It’s the variety that keeps it interesting. And hey, they’re all my children.”