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.”
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
Oh, the irony... or something like that.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
St. Patty's Day crafts
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.