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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Simpsons star tunes up for Fringe
By Natalie Jamieson
BBC News

Harry Shearer
Shearer voices Simpsons characters including Mr Burns and Ned Flanders
Harry Shearer, best known for his role as Mr Burns in The Simpsons, is currently starring alongside his wife Judith Owen at the Edinburgh Fringe.

This Is So Not About The Simpsons (American Voyeurs) takes a satirical look at modern America, with songs lambasting everything from George Bush to Michael Jackson.

Shearer, a Californian native, married Welsh singer Owen 13 years ago, and the pair currently live in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

It is the first joint production for the husband-and-wife team, who until now have kept their professional lives apart.

US views

"We share a certain cock-eyed view of America, which is cock-eyed enough as it is, so the two sort of cancel each other out," says 62-year-old Shearer.

"She's fascinated by the weirdness of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, whereas I'm fascinated by New York and Washington striding the Earth like a drunken colossus.

"The show is a sort of merging of those two views of America."

Both share a passion for music. Owen is a well-respected singer-songwriter, while Shearer regularly composes songs for US-syndicated radio programme Le Show.

"She writes, I write, she sings, I sing, she plays, I play. We do all sorts of combinations of the two, and then there's some nutty videos as well," explains Shearer.

Spinal Tap
Shearer (left) will team up with his Spinal Tap co-stars later this year

Despite an iconic role playing bassist Derek Smalls in 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap, as his show's title alludes, Shearer remains best known for his multiple roles in The Simpsons.

His extensive vocal talents see him play some 21 characters in the show including Burns, Principal Skinner and Ned Flanders - and has given the comedian and writer a cult following.

But Shearer, who was born in Los Angeles, has been in showbusiness since he was a child.

"I've been in the business since I was seven years old. I like to be in it, but not of it. I like to have a lot of friends who aren't in it.

"I sort of came into it as a fluke, it was a lovely fluke, and I'm just trying to keep paddling.

"Certainly spending a lot of time in New Orleans is a reality check, now more than ever."

The Simpsons
The Simpsons beat Tom and Jerry to top a best cartoon poll in 2005

The actor cites The Three-Eyed Fish - when Burns runs for governor - as one of his favourite episodes but adds that "Flanders has been gaining in popularity".

"A couple of years ago someone called from the BBC to inform me there was this group of Christian gentlemen in this country who dress up as Ned Flanders and have a convention every year," he says.

After a month in Edinburgh, Shearer turns his attention to film projects: spoof mockumentary For Your Consideration and, inevitably, a big screen version of The Simpsons.

"We've done a lot of the acting tracks for it but we keep being asked to come back in and do more," says Shearer, when asked about The Simpsons project.

"I'm presuming that they're animating it at warp speed as we speak because the movie comes out July 2007. So better get a move on!"

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