The voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner, among others, may be going silent. Emphasis on the “may.”
Multiple news outlets are reporting longtime “Simpsons” voice actor Harry Shearer, a veteran actor also known for his turn in “This is Spinal Tap,” will depart the show after 26 years, as he announced in a tweet quoting an alleged letter from representatives of James L. Brooks, the show’s executive producer.
“From James L. Brooks’ lawyer: ‘show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best,'” Shearer tweeted early Thursday. “This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work.”
“Other work” seemed to be at the heart of a possible contract dispute between Shearer and “The Simpsons” over his extracurricular activities. Shearer is, at least, a quintuple-threat: an actor, writer, musician, show creator and podcaster with a list of credits that would leave anyone’s IMDb scrolling finger fatigued.
“In last four years, I’ve created and starred in a UK TV series and starred on London stage,” Shearer wrote in a message to CNNMoney. “Not stopping.”
But while many reported Shearer’s departure as a done deal, CNNMoney and others wondered how done the deal was.
“There is still time for the two sides to come to terms,” CNNMoney wrote, “but the production clock is ticking.”
Asked whether he still might return — if, indeed, he’s officially left — Shearer told the Web site: “I think that’s a question better posed to them.”
Many were aghast at the prospect of “The Simpsons” without Shearer.
“You’re half of Springfield!” one tweet read. “What a ridiculous situation!”
As the Hollywood Reporter pointed out, “Simpsons” contract disputes sprout up about as frequently as Homer’s five o’clock shadow. The cast boycotted script readings in 2004 seeking a pay boost, then battled over a pay cut in 2011. At that time, Shearer said he was happy to have his pay cut — if he could have a piece of the show’s back end.
“If pay cuts are what it will take to keep the show on the air, then cut my pay,” he said. “In fact, to make it as easy as possible for Fox to keep new episodes of The Simpsons coming, I’m willing to let them cut my salary not just 45 percent but more than 70 percent — down to half of what they said they would be willing to pay us. All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits.”
The “Today” show, among other outlets, reported that Shearer earned $300,000 per episode in 2013. Ay, carumba!
Here’s a list of some of the characters Shearer gave voice to, via Gizmodo:
- Mr. Burns
- Kent Brockman
- Ned Flanders
- Dr. Julius Hibbert
- Reverend Lovejoy
- Kang the Extraterrestrial
- Dr. Marvin Monroe
- Dewey Largo (Lisa’s music teacher)
- Police officer Eddie
- Radioactive Man
- Principal Skinner
- Waylon Smithers
- Judge Roy Snyder
- Maggie Simpson (shared role)
- Jebediah Springfield
- Rainier Wolfcastle
- Lion tamer Ernst
- Birchibald “Birch” T. Barlow
- Jasper Beardly
- State Comptroller Atkins (shared role)
- Springfield University student Benjamin
- KBBL Radio host Marty
- (One of) The Happy Little Elves
- Herman Hermann
- Sanjay Nahasapeemepetilon
- Springfield’s Old Barber (shared role)
- Dr. J. Loren Pryor
- Reporter Dave Shutton