Tuesday, December 02, 2008

25 years of Harry Shearer

I'm a big fan of Harry Shearer's radio program, "Le Show." It isn't broadcast locally anymore, so I listen to it live, via the Internet, from Santa Monica, California, at noon, central time, on Sunday at kcrw.com. And as a backup, I subscribe to it (for free) at audible.com.

On this week's show Harry announced that he'd been broadcasting for 25 years! Since 1983.


I think he does it for free on his own time. Certainly he uses "Le Show" to highlight his abilities as an impersonator and announcer -- and he probably gets a few jobs via the show. But this is a show he churns out every week -- on his own! Again I say, it's amazing!

(Of course, Shearer is a voice actor in Fox's "The Simpsons," and he was in "This Is Spinal Tap," among other things.)

The "Le Show" show has a number of regular non-fiction features reflecting Shearer's interests. These are all done in Shearer's regular news announcer voice. These include "News from Outside the Bubble" (what everyone outside the United States is concerned about), "The Apologies of the Week" (apologies and near apologies from people in the news), "News of the Warm" (global warming stories), "Tales of Airport Security" (mostly about the ineptness of airport security), "News of Inspectors General" (the U.S. government tattles on itself) and "I'll Read The Trades For You" (usually about events in the news, but from the perspective of specialized trade publications).

Shearer also performs original songs and parody commercials and parody radio programs. In these elaborately-produced sketches he does all of the voices, singing and speaking. And he plays all the instruments for the music. (He has re-recorded a couple albums-worth of songs from the show and they are available for purchase from amazon.com. The albums are promoted with videos at mydamnchannel.com.)

Running through his show is a love for New Orleans, the city and its musicians. And Shearer does not hide his anger about the neglect of New Orleans after Katrina.

My favorite parts of the program are when Shearer breaks out the voices and goes to work with hammer and tongs on the current U.S. president.

His "Hellcats of the White House" series -- featuring Ronald and Nancy Reagan -- is fantastic. I particularly enjoy those because Shearer would regularly toss in obscure references to 40s and 50s Hollywood lore. The "Hellcats" series continued through the presidency of George H.W. Bush as well. That was fine by me.

"ClintonSomething" is his take on the "youthful angst and middle-aged power" of Bill and Hillary Clinton's presidency. The voices continue to be excellent, but I sorta lost interest in the Clintons' antics.

The current Bush administration deserves two regular Shearer treatments. "Dick Cheney, Confidential" is wonderful in its cynicism. There is no one as calculating or pure evil as Shearer's Cheney -- "the nation's first underground vice president." I love every nasty minute of it. President George W. Bush appears in these segments here and there, but it's Cheney's show all the way.

W. is featured more fully in a series of phone calls between "41" and "43" -- that is, conversations between father and son. It's a smart device to have the voices processed slightly to sound as if they are recorded through separate telephone lines. 41 has more of a bass sound where 43 has a tinny sound. It helps the listener keep the two voices straight. But Shearer could -- and has occasionally -- done both voices together and they were easily heard as distinct voices and personalities. Shearer's technical achievement is actually overshadowed by the excellent writing.

Don't know what Shearer has up his sleeve for the Barack Obama years. I'm expecting great things.

Many -- if not most -- of the "Le Show" programs are available for listening at harryshearer.com. Or heck, just tune in next week.

Congratulations on 25 great years, Harry!


Sherman said...

Did you ever see The Teddy Bear's Picnic? I haven't. But maybe I should.
It seems to be pretty bad. But sometimes reviewers are pretty bad.

David Steinlicht said...

I did see "The Teddy Bear's Picnic." I'm sorry to report that while had amusing parts and a couple of good laughs, it was a bit of a mess.

That said, it's easily watchable -- for Shearer fans.

Harry, talking about the making of the movie, said his movie was not improvised in the way Christopher Guest's movies are. "Teddy Bear's Picnic" was completely scripted. He said he didn't have the time to have actors interact with material, to shape and improvise with it.

I'm hoping Harry attempts another movie, but if he doesn't, that's okay. He is a master using sound alone. To heck with the visuals!