Jewish Community Center
Thursday, Nov. 2
Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind) sounds happier than I’ve ever heard him. Not that he’d been sad or angry or anything like that in our four or five previous interviews over the past 15 years, but he’s just never seemed in such good humor.
“Life’s pretty good,” acknowledges Shearer, who is perhaps best known for the many character voices he contributes to The Simpsons. Shearer will be part of the Ann Katz Festival of Books at the Arthur M. Glick Jewish Community Center on Thursday (7:30 p.m., admission is free). “Of course, that exists in the larger context of the country going to hell, but hey, what’re you going to do?”
Shearer’s been monumentally busy lately with a new book (Not Enough Indians, a comic novel that tells the story of a desperate upstate New York community that turns itself into an Indian reservation so it can build a casino), a regular blog on huffingtonpost.com, where he’s the “nagging, persistent voice about the real story of New Orleans that has been overlooked or radically misreported by the national media” and preparing to promote the new Christopher Guest film, For Your Consideration, in which he plays a veteran actor whose work is generating award buzz.
With all that going on, the first question seemed like a natural:
NUVO: Now that you have fiction to add to your credits, are you the king of all media?
Shearer: I’m the jack of all media. My philosophy has been more pragmatic than that. It’s: be a moving target. In Hollywood, they’re always out to pigeonhole you and declare, “Oh, that pigeonhole is dead. Goodbye!” It seems to me, one of the keys to survival in the business of humor is to not fall in love with one particular mode of expression.
NUVO: Your book has humor in it, but there’s a serious point to be made about what a mess we’re in.
Shearer: Since the Second World War, this country has had a tacit policy of favoring consumers over producers. I remember my glee when I discovered these TVs that come from Japan that are so much better than the crap TVs made in the United States — let’s get that one. Or these great cars that are made in Europe that are so much better than these crap U.S. cars. Over time, they got cheaper and the people whose job it was to make those TVs and cars in this country found those jobs went away. As consumers, we were enormously benefited and as producers, we found we weren’t producing anymore. Those towns are the places where stuff used to be made. We all saw the other side of that 10, 20 years down the line.
NUVO: The story is so close to the truth that I wondered: Could it actually happen?
Shearer: I’m not an avid reader of, or like to be party to, the creation of total flights of fantasy that are too illogical. I worked very hard to create exactly that.
NUVO: So, could it happen?
Shearer: At this point, I don’t think it could because there’s been enough blowback against Indian casinos in parts of the country like Connecticut and New York where I think the window for that happening closed. But I think in the time I picked — in the mid-’90s to the turn of the 21st century, when stuff like this really was under the radar — I think it could have.