‘How Can You Fuck Up That Badly?’ Harry Shearer Talks Trump Parody Album

30 October 2020 | 9:56 am | Dan Cribb

"It’s undressed him mercilessly.”

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The Simpsons may have predicted Trump's Presidency, but Harry Shearer, who's best known as the voice of Mr Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers, Kent Brockman and more, isn’t having any part of it.

Back in March, the actor and musician stopped by The Green Room with Neil Griffiths during his visit to Australia for Port Fairy Folk Festival, and during that chat he touched on Trump and the coronavirus, not knowing just how bad things were about to get.

“We left [Australia] the day before Qantas grounded its international fleet,” he says. “We got out JUST in time, or I’d be asking you if you had a spare bed right about now.”

Lockdown for a lot of musicians and actors meant limited or not work, but upon returning to LA, Shearer found himself “very productive”.

“[The Simpsons] has stayed in production. After 32 years of telling me, ‘No, no, you can’t do it at home! You have to do it in our studio, we have the best mics and blah, blah, blah.’ Suddenly they sent me a mic and said, ‘Do it from home!’ So that’s been good.”

With “a lot fewer distractions”, he’s also managed to record an album, The Many Moods Of Donald Trump.

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“I do a radio show – an hour a week on public radio here in the States – and I write comedy sketches and/or songs, and Trump basically has one strategy in mind, ‘Look at me!’ So I did look at him and I wrote a lot of sketches and songs about him.

“At the beginning of this year, I looked back and thought, ‘God, I’ve got a bunch of songs and some of them are pretty good.’ The versions on the radio were demo versions and I thought I could call my friend CJ [Vanston] who’s a wonderful producer and we could go into the studio and make a proper record out of them, so that’s what we did."

The album was announced back in July with the release of Son In Law, a song with an accompanying video that features groundbreaking motion-capture animation developed by none other than Sydney local Matt Hermans.

The clip was created “from one side of the earth to the other” and the results are eerily good, which “was the goal”.

It’s bizarre that in 2020 Donald Trump is the President, during a global pandemic. As such, Shearer had no shortage of topics to cover while writing and recording the October 30 release.

“It’s karmic strip,” Shearer notes. “It’s the last thing in the worst that he expected or wanted and he got it, you know. Nothing has been more vital or crucial in exposing his certain lack of expertise in this particular job than this event. It’s undressed him mercilessly.”

Back when The Simpsons jokingly showed Trump as President back in 2000 during episode Bart To The Future, the prospect of him actually taking on that role two decades later was a ludicrous thought.

Shearer recalls that during that time and the preceding decade that Trump “had achieved national fame solely by being a New York loudmouth”.

“He was a pretend rich guy, who offended the conventional wisdom that you can’t go bankrupt with a casino – four times,” he adds.

“How can you fuck up a casino that badly? You’ve got the edge on every game that’s played and somehow you lose your shirt; that’s pretty good.”

Shearer’s been studying Trump more closely in recent years, not only for song topics but also to master his voice, as the new album sees him impersonate the President across all its tracks.

“It’s not only trying to get the sound of his voice but the nature of his so-called brain, because you have to understand how he’s using his voice,” Shearer tells.

“I’ve been doing different characters on my radio show for years, and elsewhere as well, and the people I’m interested in making fun of vocally and physically are not actors, not sports figures, but people in the news – people at the news and in the news, especially with the former, the people on the news.

“I realised fairly early on that if you figured out who they were imitating, you had a really good line on being able to do them.”

As far as who Trump is imitating? “That’s an interesting question,” Shearer says, pausing for a moment. “I’d have to think about who his influences were back then in New York. It’d be easy to say that he certainly was listening to Howard Stern, because they both came from the same kind of [place].”

The Many Moods Of Donald Trump is out now