Published on May 15th, 2015 | by Brad0
Top Ten Harry Shearer Simpsons Characters
Yesterday saw the end of an era, as Harry Shearer announced that he was leaving The Simpsons after 26 seasons. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as the prophets of doom and vultures gathered in kind to declare that finally, and probably about 10-15 years too late, this would be the end of The Simpsons. And while that’s clearly not going to be the case – who ever knew The Simpsons to let a little thing like artistic integrity get in the way of all that cash? – it does speak to the mammoth impression Harry Shearer left on the show, and on popular culture at large as a result. With that in mind, I’m going to take a moment to count down the top ten Harry Shearer characters on The Simpsons, and relive the good times. The good times being localised to series 2-8, when The Simpsons staked a legitimate claim for being the greatest TV show of all time. Let’s begin!
10. Lenny Leonard
Childhood friend and co-worker of Homer Simpson and Carl Carlson, Lenny is one of those side characters who pretty much always raises a laugh. Lent a little depth through the reveal of his Buddhism and the ambiguous nature of his relationship with Carl.
- Julius Hibbert
He of the most jovial laugh on television. Though the more scrupulous of Springfield’s two resident doctors, he’s not above a little grifting of his own. The notable thing about Hibbert, I’ve found, is that – particularly for 90s TV – he’s one of the most positive portrayals of a non-white character in a majority white show you’ll see. Which makes it very odd that he’s voiced by an old white guy, but whatever. In hindsight, the Bill Cosby parallels are starting to look a bit unfortunate, mind you.
- Timothy Lovejoy
A man of dubious faith, there’s just something about Reverend Lovejoy’s dour, world-weary demeanour that cracks me up. Whether he’s asking God “Why do you hate my trains?” or saving Flanders from a band of angry monkeys, it’s his miserable deadpan that always comes through.
- Kent Brockman
“I for one would like to welcome our new insect overlords!” It used to be that Kent Brockman was the perfect satire of the pompous, overblown newsman. These days, he looks the very model of restraint by comparison.
- Rainier Wolfcastle
There’s no reason I can think of that this character wasn’t President of the United States in The Simpsons Movie. Shearer did the same voice for President Schwarzenegger. Baffling. Rainier Wolfcastle is probably the most obvious pastiche of a real human being in the show, and whether he’s playing McBain, Radioactive Man, or trying his hand at stand-up comedy, he’s rarely less than howlingly funny.
- Waylon Smithers
Originally little more than Mr Burns’ lickspittle, and weirdly being black in his first appearance, Smithers is one of those characters whose own inner life has taken on a life of its own, and made him one of Springfield’s most valuable supporting players. The conflict between his closeted homosexuality and Burns’ old-fashioned “values” are an excellent source of humour. It’s weird to think that all of the scenes which feature Burns and Smithers interacting with each other are literally just Harry Shearer talking to himself in two silly voices.
- Jasper Beardly
Not putting Jasper number one? You’d better believe that’s a paddlin’…
- Seymour Skinner
Let us never speak of Armin Tamzarian again. In the early days of the show, Skinner was Bart’s nemesis, and to an extent the primary antagonist of The Simpsons. As the show came to rely less on Bart and the supporting cast grew in depth, Skinner was one of the biggest beneficiaries. He’s a put-upon mother’s boy and traumatised Vietnam veteran, unlucky in love and constantly antagonised by his immediate supervisor, Superintendent Chalmers. Every scene between Skinner and Chalmers is pure gold.
- Ned Flanders
Hi-diddly-ho, Consumerinos! Well gosh darn it if Ned Flanders isn’t the nicest fella in Springfield, spreading the good wor-diddly-ord of the Lor-diddly-ord to all who’ll listen. And most who won’t. His perfect family life and overall pleasant demeanour are seemingly anathema to Homer Simpson, and pretty much any episode which sets the two of them in close quarters antagonising each other is a winner.
- Montgomery Burns
Shearer’s own personal favourite, the best of my meagre The Simpsons impressions repertoire, and arguably the funniest character on the entire show. Due to his outlandishly evil nature, there is no scenario the show can concoct into which you can’t insert Burns and make it funnier. Constantly crossing the line from everyday villainy to cartoonish super-villainy (albeit a rank amateur compared to Doctor Colossus!), Burns is one of the great characters in the history of animated television.
Future series of The Simpsons will be all the poorer for lacking Harry Shearer. I’ve not watched in about ten years, but it feels like the show can’t go on without the key trio of Shearer, Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta all playing off each other. I’m sure they’ll be able to find some fine sound-alikes, but it won’t be the same. Good luck in your future endeavours, Harry!