Shearer, Harry 1943- (Harry Julius Shearer)

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Shearer, Harry 1943- (Harry Julius Shearer)


Born December 23, 1943, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Mack Shearer and Dora Warren; married Penelope Joyce Nichols, October, 1974 (divorced, 1977); married Judith Owen (a singer and songwriter), March 28, 1993. Education: University of California, Los Angeles, B.A., 1964; graduate studies at Harvard University, 1964-65.


Agent—Metropolitan Talent, 4526 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010; William Morris Agency Inc., 151 S. El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2775; Paradigm, 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., 258th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067.


Writer, actor, director, comedian, director, and producer. Newsweek, Los Angeles and Boston, reporter, 1964-65; California State Assembly, legislative intern, 1965-66; Los Angeles Times, reporter; Compton Unified School District, Compton, CA, high school English and social studies teacher, 1966-68; the Credibility Gap (a comedy group), Los Angeles, writer, actor, and producer, 1968-76; creator of a radio program for National Public Radio, 1983.

Appeared in television series, including Not Necessarily the News, HBO, 1983; Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1984-85; and (voice of 17 characters, including Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, and Moe), The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 1989—. Appeared in television pilots, including Studio '57, syndicated, 1957, and Serpico: The Deadly Game, NBC, 1976. Appeared in television series, including Miami Vice, NBC, 1988; Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Comedy Central, ABC, 1997; George and Leo, CBS, 1998; Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, 1998; Style and Substance, CBS, 1998; The Panel, Ten Network, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2003; Just Shoot Me!, NBC, 1999; The Martin Short Show, syndicated, 1999; Jack & Jill, The WB, 1999, 2000, and 2001; Dawson's Creek, The WB, 2000, 2001; That's Life, ABC, 2001; The Agency, CBS, 2002; TNN's Conspiracy Zone with Kevin Nealon, TNN, 2002; NOW with Bill Moyers, PBS, 2002; Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo, 2003; Mad TV, Fox, 2003; In Entertainment, Ten Network, 2003; Richard and Judy, Channel 4, 2003; and The View, 2003. Appeared in television movies, including Million Dollar Infield, CBS, 1982; and Sunday Best, 1991.

Appeared in television specials, including The TV Show, ABC, 1979; David Letterman's Late Night Film Festival, NBC, 1985; "It's Just TV!," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1985; Spitting Image: Down and Out in the White House, NBC, 1986; Down and Out with Donald Duck (animated), NBC, 1987; Spitting Image: The 1987 Movie Awards, NBC, 1987; Spitting Image: The Ronnie and Nancy Show, NBC, 1987; Not Necessarily the News: Inside Entertainment, HBO, 1987; "This Week Indoors," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1987; "Paul Shaffer: Viva Shaf Vegas," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1987; An All-Star Celebration: The '88 Vote, ABC, 1988; "Merrill Markoe's Guide to Glamorous Living," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1988; Martin Mull in Portrait of a White Marriage, Cinemax, 1988; "Harry Shearer … The Magic of Live," HBO Comedy Hour, HBO, 1988; Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (animated), Fox, 1989; ALF Takes over the Network, NBC, 1989; The News Hole with Harry Shearer, 1994; Lifetime Applauds: The Fight against Breast Cancer, Lifetime, 1995; The Show Formerly Known as the Martin Short Show, NBC, 1995; Indecision '96: The Republican National Convention, Comedy Central, 1996; and State of the Union Undressed, Comedy Central, 1996. Also made television debut on The Jack Benny Show, CBS, and appeared in Spinal Tap Reunion.

Served as creative consultant, Fernwood 2-Night, syndicated, 1977; creative consultant, America 2-Night, syndicated, 1977-78; producer, The TV Show, ABC, 1979; director, "It's Just TV!," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1985; director, The History of White People in America, Cinemax, 1985; (with Paul Shaffer and Tom Leopold) director and executive producer, "Paul Shaffer: Viva Shaf Vegas," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1987; (with Merrill Markoe) executive producer and director, "This Week Indoors," Cinemax Comedy Experiment, Cinemax, 1987; director, Martin Mull in Portrait of a White Marriage, Cinemax, 1988; and (with Kevin S. Bright) executive producer, "Harry Shearer … The Magic of Live," HBO Comedy Hour, HBO, 1988.

Appeared in films, including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Universal, 1953; The Robe, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1953; Cracking Up, American International, 1977; Real Life, Paramount, 1979; The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, United Artists, 1979; Animalympics (animated), Barber Rose International, 1979; One-Trick Pony, Warner Bros., 1980; Loose Shoes, Atlantic, 1980; Serial, Paramount, 1980; The Right Stuff, Warner Bros., 1983; This Is Spinal Tap, Embassy, 1984; Flicks, United Film Distribution, 1987; Plain Clothes, Paramount, 1988; My Stepmother Is an Alien, Columbia, 1988; Blood and Concrete—A Love Story, IRS Releasing, 1991; The Fisher King, TriStar, 1991; Oscar, Buena Vista, 1991; Pure Luck, Universal, 1991; A League of Their Own, Columbia, 1992; Wayne's World Two, Paramount, 1993; I'll Do Anything, Columbia, 1994; Speechless, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1994; My Best Friend's Wedding, TriStar, 1997; Godzilla, TriStar, 1998; The Truman Show, Paramount, 1998; Dick, Phoenix Pictures, 1999; Teddy Bears' Picnic (and director and producer), Visionbox Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns), Plexifilm, 2002; T-20 Years and Counting, Warner Bros., 2003; Realizing "The Right Stuff," Warner Bros., 2003; A Mighty Wind, Warner Bros., 2003; and Pay Up, Cheaters!, 2003.

Appeared in stage performances, including Beyond Therapy, Los Angeles Public Theatre, 1983; and Accomplice, Pasadena Playhouse, 1989; and speakerphone voice of Mr. Braithwait in Mizlansky/Zilinsky (or "schmucks"), Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I, New York City, 1998. Host of the nationally syndicated radio program Le Show, 1983—. Has also contributed voices to video games, including The Simpsons, 1991; Blazing Dragons, 1996; The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield, 1997; The Simpsons Road Rage, Nintendo, 2001; The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Vivendi Universal Games, 2003.


Emmy Award nominations, 1977 and 1980; ACE Award, Cable Television Academy, 1988.



(With others) Cracking Up, American International, 1977.

(With Albert Brooks and Monica Johnson) Real Life, Paramount, 1979.

(With Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Rob Reiner; also composer, with Guest, McKean, and Reiner) This Is Spinal Tap, Embassy, 1984.

(And director) Teddy Bears' Picnic, Visionbox Pictures, 2002.

Also, as Derek Smalls, author of Spinal Tap: Break like the Wind—The Videos.


Saturday Night Live (series), NBC 1979-85.

"It's Just TV!," Cinemax Comedy Experiment (special), Cinemax, 1985.

(With Merrill Markoe; also composer and lyricist) "This Week Indoors," Cinemax Comedy Experiment (special), Cinemax, 1987.

(With Paul Shaffer and Tom Leopold) "Paul Shaffer: Viva Shaf Vegas," Cinemax Comedy Experiment (special), Cinemax, 1987.

"Harry Shearer … The Magic of Live," HBO Comedy Hour (special), HBO, 1988.


Man Bites Town: Notes of a Man Who Doesn't Take Notes (essays), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

(Composer of music and lyrics) Waiting for Guffman, Castle Rock, 1996.

It's the Stupidity, Stupid: Why (Some) People Hate Clinton and Why the Rest of Us Have to Watch, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.

Not Enough Indians (novel), Justin, Charles & Co. (Boston, MA), 2006.

Also author, with the Credibility Gap, of the comedy albums A Great Gift Idea, 1974, and The Bronze Age of Radio. Author of a weekly column "Man Bites Town" in the Los Angeles Times, 1990—. Contributor of articles to publications, including New West, Los Angeles Magazine, and Film Comment. Also cowrote Spinal Tap Reunion.


Comic actor and writer Harry Shearer, best known for the cult classic movie This Is Spinal Tap, has been involved with show business since early childhood, when he appeared on "The Jack Benny Show" at age seven and in the movie Abbott and Costello Go to Mars in 1953. Born in Los Angeles, Shearer studied political science at the University of California at Los Angeles and then pursued graduate work at Harvard University in urban government. He soon returned to California, contributing freelance articles to Newsweek and Los Angeles Times as well as New West, Los Angeles magazine and Film Comment. Shearer also taught English and social studies in high school and worked in the California State Legislature. But his true calling proved to be satire.

Shearer was a founding member of the comedy group the Credibility Gap, with whom he began to build his writing and performing career. He cowrote, coproduced, and performed on their albums A Great Gift Idea and The Bronze Age of Radio. He went on to cowrite and coproduce Albert Brooks's album A Star Is Bought and to host the Los Angeles radio program Le Show, which has become nationally syndicated. In 1979 he joined the hit TV show Saturday Night Live as a writer and regular cast member. Though he left the show after his first season, he returned for another season in 1984.

Shearer has worked on several films as an actor and screenwriter. He has appeared in Cracking Up, Real Life (for which he co-wrote the screenplay), One-Trick Pony, The Right Stuff, The Fisher King, A League of Their Own, Wayne's World Two, I'll Do Anything, and Speechless. He has also played voice roles in Animalympics and My Stepmother Is an Alien. Shearer has also done voice roles for the popular animated television series The Simpsons and has appeared in such television programs as Harry Shearer's News Quiz and Likely Stories. This Is Spinal Tap, however, remains Shearer's best-known work.

The film, directed by Rob Reiner in 1984, is a spoof of such music classics as Woodstock, 1970—which chronicled the famed rock concert that gave its name to a generation—and The Last Waltz, 1978, which was a farewell tribute to The Band. This Is Spinal Tap, structured as a mock-documentary, follows the career of the fictional English band Spinal Tap from their genesis as 1960s-era flower children to their transformation into heavy metal stars. Shearer, who plays the role of bass player Derek Smalls, wrote the script with partners Michael McKean (lead singer David St. Hubbins) and Christopher Guest (lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel). "For all its japes and jokes, the movie is really about exhaustion of the spirit," remarked Richard Corliss in Time. This Is Spinal Tap, which gained an immediate following among the baby boomer generation and other rock fans, also impressed serious critics like Stanley Kauffmann of the New Republic, who stated: "If Monty Python were American, this is the rock-documentary satire they might have made."

In 1993 Shearer published a collection of his newspaper columns titled Man Bites Town: Notes of a Man Who Doesn't Take Notes. His first book, it received favorable reviews for its consistent humor. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the book has "style, wit, and above all, a resonance that echoes beyond its brief confine." Shearer is "at his funniest when marveling at the world's absurdities," observed Joe Collins in Booklist.

Also in 1993, Shearer joined the Spinal Tap gang once more for TV's much-welcomed A Spinal Tap Reunion, which Shearer also co-wrote. This special featured the band's reunion concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Like the film, reviewers noted, the television special achieved a high level of satire. A contributor to Entertainment Weekly pointed out that the heavy metal song parodies are "pretty funny," but that the best aspects of A Spinal Tap Reunion are the interviews with various personalities who are requested to comment on the merits of the band.

In his 1999 book It's the Stupidity, Stupid: Why (Some) People Hate Clinton and Why the Rest of Us Have to Watch, Shearer examines the extremely negative feelings many people had at the time about then-President Bill Clinton. Richard Corliss, writing in Time, called the book "a smart challenge to lazy thinking."

Shearer's unbounded creativity has also led him to novel writing. His first novel, Not Enough Indians, is a satire about the locals of Gammage, NY, who, in an effort to keep their town alive, petition the government to recognize them as an Indian tribe named the Filaquonsett so they can go into the casino business. After building the casino, they find themselves in a feud with a neighboring tribe that has a casino. For impinging on their casino business, the neighboring tribe builds a toxic dump next to the casino built by the Filaquonsett tribe. Allison Block, writing in Booklist, called Not Enough Indians a "wickedly funny debut novel." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author "has a fine time lampooning just about every institution and piety modern America has to offer."



International Motion Picture Almanac, Quigley Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.


Booklist, April 1, 1993, Joe Collins, review of Man Bites Town, p. 1402; August 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of Not Enough Indians, p. 43.

Entertainment Weekly, December 18, 1992, review of Spinal Tap Reunion, p. 50.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Not Enough Indians, p. 750.

Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Christine DeZelar, review of Not Enough Indians, p. 138.

Los Angeles, December, 2002, R.J. Smith, "Radio Head: Harry Shearer's Made Comedy History, and His Radio Show Is Celebrating Its 20th Birthday," p. 98.

New Republic, May 21, 1984, Stanley Kauffmann, review of This Is Spinal Tap, pp. 24-25.

New York Times Book Review, December 31, 2006, Todd Pruzan, review of Not Enough Indians, p. 20.

Psychology Today, September-October, 2006, Jen A. Miller, "Harry Shearer on Satire," p. 112.

Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1993, review of Man Bites Town, p. 75; July 10, 2006, review of Not Enough Indians, p. 48.

Time, March 5, 1984, Richard Corliss, review of This Is Spinal Tap, p. 86; March 29, 1999, Richard Corliss, review of It's the Stupidity Stupid, p. 218; April 21, 2003, Richard Corliss and Josh Tyrangiel, "Mighty Funny," interview with author and others, p. 68.


Harry Shearer Home Page, (May 9, 2007).

New Orleans Magazine Web site, (October 25, 2006), Sue Strachan, "Harry Shearer," profile of author., (May 9, 2007), profile of author.