Since his classic performance as Derek Smalls in “This is Spinal Tap,” Harry Shearer has done everything from voicing Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons” to hosting his own radio program, “Le Show.” Spark Networks’ President Greg Liberman sat down with Shearer for an all-too-brief interview while the actor publicized “For Your Consideration,” the latest comedy from Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy. The film follows the misadventures behind the scenes of “Home for Purim,” a melodramatic weeper about a Jewish family in the South circa World War II, when Oscar buzz erupts on the set.
GREG: In the movie, you play Victor Allan Miller, whose best-known role, prior to Home for Purim, was Irv the Foot Long Weiner. What are your favorite Jewish foods?
HARRY SHEARER: No. 1 on the list would be New York corn rye from Nate ‘N Al’s. And it’s sort of ironic, I grew up having eaten that, and went to New York and I thought, “Oh boy!” But the rye bread in New York is nowhere near what we call New York corn rye, so I was bitterly disappointed.
When I was a kid, I loved Jewish salami. I haven’t eaten it lately ‘cause they put sodium nitrate in it. Then my mom, I don’t think this is Jewish, but my first food I ever remember eating and loving was braised beef tongue, so I’ll claim that. Also, I can’t leave out brisket. I actually am the author of a dish that one deli one day is going to name after me. I was at the Stage Deli a couple of weeks ago and this waitress said, “Dahling, I’ve been here for 26 years and nobody has ever ordered that!” Brisket and scrambled eggs together. That’s so good!
GREG: The Harry Shearer.
I actually am the author of a dish that one deli one day is going to name after me… Brisket and scrambled eggs together. That’s so good.
HARRY: It’s the Harry Shearer. Ask for it by name.
GREG: I will, next time I’m at the Stage Deli.
HARRY: Yeah, or anywhere. Ask for it at any deli.
GREG: Was Purim a holiday that you enjoyed while growing up?
HARRY: Enjoyed in the sense of ignored, yes. Yeah, I enjoyed not celebrating it. I knew about it. I was told about it. I think my family members had celebrated it back where they came from, but I think it was a minor holiday.
GREG: In the movie, there’s a lot of buzz starting on the Internet about members of the “Home for Purim” cast potentially being nominated for Oscars. Then, Chuck Porter [host of a program like “Entertainment Tonight”] shows up on the doorstep of those who weren’t, that very morning. You’ve won a number of awards. How would you have–
HARRY: I have?
GREG: How would you react if you were in that situation and Chuck Porter was on Harry Shearer’s doorstep?
HARRY: First, I’d be reacting the way I did when you said I’d won a number of awards, ‘cause I think I’ve won all of two and stolen one for a grand total of three.
The reaction that Victor had is very close to what I would have, in the sense that when I made that choice for the character, it was very instinctive and intuitive. “Don’t show them how hurt you are.” You’ve gotta show the puppy dog eagerness because maybe somebody [important] will see you this morning and think, “Hey, I like what he did with that,” and all that stupid stuff. So I think that might be pretty much it. Then, the minute the camera was off, I’d say, “Get the [expletive deleted] off of my property.”
GREG: You’ve done a wide variety of things in show business, and obviously a number of movies and TV shows—Working with these people is about as good as it gets… You look around the set and everybody there is somebody you’ve wanted to do scenes with.
HARRY: And won all those awards.
GREG: How does working on a quasi-unscripted film compare to working on a conventional film? And do you enjoy one more than the other?
HARRY: Working with these people, with Christopher directing, is about as good as it gets. You look around the set and everybody there is somebody that you’ve wanted to do scenes with. In this movie, it’s like “Great, finally, after all these years of wishing, I get to do scenes with Catherine [O’Hara]; I get to do scenes with Parker [Posey], and Chris Moynihan. It’s so much more fulfilling because you’ve been sucked into the creative process so much earlier. You get to choose your look, you get to choose the way your character dresses and the funny things that may adorn his face or not. You’re really much more invested than you are as a normal actor. It’s all fun to do, you know. Fortunately.
GREG: You’re a married man; do you have any relationship advice for the singles on our website?
HARRY: Relationship advice… That would amuse my wife, if she heard that question being posed to me – there she is now! [phone ringing]. “Honey, don’t tell them that!” Just when you think it’s important to share your feelings about something is the moment when you should think twice about it…