What does Harry Shearer — the voice behind The Simpsons's evil billionaire C. Montgomery Burns, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders and more — do in his off time? Once again, he's skewering the power elite. In Teddy Bears' Picnic (currently in limited release), he takes a comedic look at an exclusive (and rather debauched) retreat for the wealthy, white and male.
Explaining his fascination with rotten rich guys, Shearer — who wrote, directed and exec produced Teddy — simply shrugs: "Growing up in California, you kind of always heard about this a little bit."
Shearer's been out of the director's chair for quite a few years — and focusing the large and diverse cast (including ER's Ming Na, Fred Willard, Michael McKean and Alan Thicke) proved challenging. "I told the actors... figure out something," he recalls. "Some way of being, some way of talking, some mannerism, something in addition to what's written that really makes you stand out the first time you are on the screen."
While Shearer doesn't mind being best known as a Simpsons voice, he grins: "I'd rather go down in history as Principal Skinner than C. Montgomery Burns, on the moral and ethics scale!" He's almost as well recognized for his work with Christopher Guest, with whom he co-starred in Spinal Tap.
Asked about the new Guest film in the works — an untitled mockumentary about folk music — Shearer gave us the scoop. "We've been writing songs," hints the auteur, who scored Guest's sublime 1997 comedy Waiting for Guffman. "I hesitate to spook things by saying too much. But I love the songs; I think they're very funny. It's the usual cast from Guffman and Best in Show returning as different groups of folk singers."