You know him as the Machiavellian Mr. Burns on The Simpsons and the gardening bassist Derek Smalls from the mock rock group Spinal Tap. In addition to his voice acting work (he’s the voice of more than 30 characters on The Simpsons) and well known mockumentary film collaborations with Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration), Harry Shearer is also the author of three books, a regular columnist for The Huffington Post and the host of the weekly radio program Le Show. This Saturday, Shearer will be among the honorees at Lafayette’s iDiDx film and music festival’s awards ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. at the Lite Center. Shearer recently took the time to e-mail responses to a few pressing questions from The Independent Weekly.
We know you love spending time in New Orleans. Have you ever visited Lafayette or Acadiana? We’ve been waiting for a Cajun character to appear on The Simpsons.
Oooh, don’t wish for that. Our accents would be worse than they were for the Australia episode. I have been to Lafayette for Festival International, ate at Prejean’s, among other places, had a great time.
I guess it’s still probably sinking in that you’re actually going to be taking home an iDiDx award. Have you written your acceptance speech yet?
No. I’m still busy looking up what iDiDx means. Until yesterday, I thought it was a format my DVD machine wouldn’t play.
So, you’re a mockumentary actor, cartoon voice-over artist, radio show host and activist. What did you have to do to convince your first agent to take you on as a client?
My first agent solicited me. It was a children’s agent (formerly my piano teacher) who asked my parents if she could try to get me work. So I guess it was either my innate cuteness or the grotesque displacement of my pre-orthodonture front teeth.
Have you grown weary of people asking you to say “egg-salent”?
No, because most of them don’t spell it that way.
Last year, Spinal Tap re-united to play the Live Earth concert to raise awareness about global warming. Has the band been making an effort to reduce its carbon footprint?
Yes, there’s virtually no carbon on any of the band members’ feet now.
You’ve cut spots for levees.org and have a running column on The Huffington Post about New Orleans recovery issues. As a guy most people know as Mr. Burns from The Simpsons or Derek from Spinal Tap, what do you feel you can bring to the discussion about New Orleans’ flood protection?
Well, there’s a certain cohort of the population that will respond to anything I write or say with, “Why should we listen to you? Get back to doing cartoon voices.” But I’m a certified smart guy (credentials on request), and, as someone who loves the city of New Orleans and didn’t have to spend the last two years arguing with insurance adjusters and Road Home officials, I thought I should devote some of my energy to keeping the story alive. And, I have a microphone and a web base, so, if not me, who?
You recently had a column titled “Government floods city, then poisons survivors,” which you then wrote would be the tabloid, but not entirely inaccurate version, of the New Orleans story to date. Even though it’s proven that the federal government failed to provide adequate levee protection and then disseminated toxic trailers to people who lost their homes, why do you think that narrative doesn’t register with most people?
I think it’s because the national media very early on adopted what I call the “template” of the story — i.e., natural disaster, mainly poor black people affected — and that’s still what most people in this country think they know about what happened here. It’s a very powerful force against which to contend, but its effect has been to sap the political will to do what’s necessary to make the citizens whole and to prevent a repetition. So it’s important to keep getting the message out there, I think.
What’s your measure of New Orleans’ recovery?
Because I come and go all the time, I do notice the little things — the replantings along Elysian Fields, the opening of a meat market in the Lower 9, the corner markets opening up in areas abandoned by the supermarkets, the houses all over town getting decked out in colorful new paint schemes. Absent an overall plan and large-scale efforts, these are the marks of what I think of as the nation’s largest-ever ground-up, grass-roots recovery. One more crucial element: the springing up of so many strong, smart, dedicated citizens’ groups in communities all over the city.
You’ve been a pretty scathing critic of media coverage on the government’s failures in New Orleans. Why do you think the media is often so quick to turn the spotlight away from New Orleans?
The people who run the media are the real victims of attenuated attention span (a problem which they project onto the rest of us). Their quest for “ratings crack” — the big story to which the lion’s share of attention can be shown — means they always have to, in the loathsome phrase of the modern culture, “move on.”
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
West coast casual
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
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On Tuesday, a three judge panel (voting two to one) of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional Mississippi’s controversial law requiring that physicians who perform abortions maintain admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
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Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
"Although the administration is moving forward with climate change regulations at home, we don't consider how policy decisions in the United States impact greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world," says Roger Martella, the former general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.
Louisiana agriculture officials say prices for long-grain rice are projected to drop this year.
First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending July 19 decreased from the previous week's total.
A judge is getting ready to set a new trial date for a former BP executive charged with obstructing a congressional investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
If President Barack Obama’s poll numbers, and those for his health care law, haven’t yet bottomed out in the Bayou State, then Democrats surely don’t want to know what the statistical floor actually looks like.
Midsouth Bank has released its second quarter earnings report, showing a year-over-year increase for shareholders.
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The deadline to purchase tickets for the 2014 ABiz Top 50 Business Luncheon featuring top-selling author, political activist and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is only two weeks away.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
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The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.