An interview with…Harry Shearer

While you may not recognise his face, you will certainly recognise his voice. Harry Shearer has brought to life over 10 different characters in The Simpsons, ranging from Christian next-door neighbour Ned Flanders to evil billionaire Mr. Burns.

Harrys career started for him very early on in life. At the tender age of seven he got a part in The Jack Benny Program on the radio, and it was here that veteran voice actor Mel Blanc (who voiced characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck) took him under his wing.

Harry continued to work in radio, writing and staring in various shows, and before long he was hired as a writer and cast member on Saturday Night Live.

But what Harry is most well known for is his prolific work as a voice actor on The Simpsons, which he has worked for since its creation all the way back in 1989.  While openly admitting the show has had its ups and downs over the years, He remains proud of his contribution to the popular cartoon

Harry has given voices to over 10 main characters that are loved the all over the world, including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Dr. Hibbert, Lenny, Principal Skinner, Otto and Rainier Wolfcastle.

I spoke with Harry over email and he was happy to answer some questions:

How did you get into voice acting in the first place ad how did you end up working on the Simpsons?

Well, I’ve been an actor pretty much all my life, and one of the media I’ve worked in all along is radio, where all you have to work with is your voice. Matt Groening [creator of The Simpsons] had been a fan of my radio show, and had his then-partner call me to invite me to join the Simpsons cast. It was really that simple.

You voice many characters in the show, but which is your favourite?

C Montgomery Burns. He doesn’t try to dilute his evil with even a scintilla of goodness.

How do you come up with so many different voices and is it difficult to switch between them all?

It’s not difficult; it’s like switching from one song you know to another. I came up with them just by making intuitive leaps after reading the script descriptions of the character; I never saw drawings before starting to voice the characters.

Are there any characters that you wish you could have voiced?

No, I have a full plate!

Having being part of the cast since 1989, how do you think the show has changed?

Hmmm…more commercials!

What do you think of other similar cartoons, e.g. Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill etc?

I’m a big fan of King of the Hill.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into your line of work?

Stay out. Seriously, it’s a tiny little world, the voice-acting realm. Given the versatility and anonymity of most of the practitioners, it’s very hard to get a foothold in it. You need a lot of persistence, and even more luck.

Thanks a lot, Harry.


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