Harry Shearer sits down for a Q-and-A with Dean Kuipers at CityBeat. It doesn't take long for the subject to turn to Harry's least favorite hometown paper.
Q:What made you lose interest in the Los Angeles Times?
A: I hate em. With the easy availability of the best newspapers all over the world on the Internet, it became such a waste of time to bother with it. Its a very chicken-shit operation. I was covering the O.J. civil trial, and I wrote this piece about fame and notoriety and O.J.s prospects for the Opinion section. And there was a line in it that said, Even if there was a temporary dip in his fortunes, he could weather that storm by learning to do some rapping and going on an Asian tour with Michael Jackson. And the next part of that sentence was: Jacksons popularity doesnt seem to be on the wane in that continent, possibly because of the prominent role children play in the commerce of most Asian cities. And I got a note from the editor saying, That sentence has to come out. I said, What in that sentence is not true?
On that very day, The New York Times had run a Page One story on the government of Singapore trying to get eight-year-olds out of the business of manufacturing soccer balls. Well, people might think youre being racist. So the factual basis of what Im saying is now not enough of a defense for an argument in an opinion piece? What people might think is now how youre editing the paper?
He doesn't care much for Fox either.
Q: What about your relationship with Fox? It did this jingoistic war coverage, but its also the network that has The Simpsons, arguably one of the best shows on TV.
A: You have to live with all sorts of contradictions. I think that Fox has been indisputably a force for evil in the world. But the Simpsons exist totally through a series of flukes. Chief of which was that, because the network was such a fledgling joke network back then, they gave Jim Brooks a contractual provision that there would be no network interference in the broadcast of The Simpsons. They could do censor notes, but thered be no show notes.
The Fox people do a particularly ruthless kind of business. In a cannibalistic industry, its really hard to outdo some of the other people, and they succeed on a regular basis...
The first time we were having a discussion about money with The Simpsons, the then-president of Fox said to The New Yorker, in print, We can get people from any high school campus in the country to do these voices. Some of us remember that.