While he is currently known as the voice of a good portion of Springfield residents not named Simpson on the show of the same name, Harry Shearer has had a lengthy comedy career that includes two separate stints on Saturday Night Live, being a member of Spinal Tap and The Credibility Gap, and in his youth he appeared on The Jack Benny Program and had an uncredited role in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars.
Among his current comedic endeavors is Le Show, a satirical radio program on which he does all the writing and performing. It is usually broadcast live on Sunday mornings on KCRW 89.9 in Santa Monica, CA. It is syndicated on public radio stations across the country and is also available on the web at the station’s website and Shearer’s.
Dropping Anchors is a collection of comedy bits that originally aired on Le Show, which, according to the liner notes, has been “re-edited, re-mastered, re-orchestrated, and re-lawyered for this CD.” The material is all based around the news programs of the big three television networks.
ABC’s Ted Koppel appears in two bits. The first is a meeting Koppel has with Mickey Mouse about his place and future at the network. The second reveals the not-so-distant future of late night television as Koppel hosts “LateNightLine,” which finds him delivering a monologue and interviewing former anchor ABC/CNN Aaron Brown, who was recently replaced by Anderson Cooper and former National Security Adviser to President Carter Zbignew Brzezinski. Bandleader Paul Shaffer backs Koppel.
CBS is lampooned in a recurring feature called “Bad Days at Black Rock” that takes place after Dan Rather retired from CBS Evening News. On “Dan Packs Up,” he speaks with the ghosts of Edward R Murrow and Charles Kuralt. In another segment, Rather literally gets into a pissing contest with Mike Wallace. Shearer really seems to enjoy playing with Rather’s colorful Texas analogies.
Shearer takes aim at NBC as all their news programming runs a report that ponders “If JFK Had Lived”, a weeklong, “major investi-drama by NBC News and the editors of US Weekly.”
Shearer musical skills are featured on two songs. “Songs in the Key of L” plays up Tom Brokaw’s speech on songs like “I Love L.A.”, “Layla”, and “Lay Lady Lay”. Barbara Walters denies she has had “Eighty-Two Facelifts.
The bits are mildly amusing, but they aren’t laugh-out-loud funny. Most will find the humor too cerebral and too inside except for television news junkies who read Broadcasting & Cable and frequent the website TVNewser. After all, who else is doing Brzezinski imitations? If you see yourself being part of the niche audience, you’ll enjoy it. For those randomly grabbing a comedy CD off the shelf, I can’t make the same guarantee, but I’m not ruling it out.
For those with a broader sense of humor I recommend Shearer’s DVD Now You See It, which collects his television work featuring material from SNL and HBO.