THE INTERVIEWED: Harry Shearer. (Photo: Video still)
The breadth of Harry Shearer’s talents might be intimidating if he weren’t such a funny guy. But how can you be cowed by someone who adlibs one-liners while shining a light on hypocrisy, corruption and malfeasance? That mix of irreverent humor and bold analysis is why I wanted to interview Harry as part of NRDC's project with StoryCorpsand Bridge the Gulf to document the stories of people living with the BP oil disaster.
Harry — the voice of several characters from "The Simpsons," including Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders — lives in New Orleans and is deeply involved with the community. His new documentary film, "The Big Uneasy" (“before there was oil, there was water”) makes the case that the flooding of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a man-made, not a natural, disaster, and that despite the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers over the last five years, the city remains vulnerable to catastrophic flooding.
Harry and I sat down in one of StoryCorps’ Airstream trailer/recording studios to talk about both of the man-made disasters Louisiana has suffered in recent years. His observations about the role of media (“they have a high bar of incompetence to get over”), BP (now they need a cleaner name: “maybe just P”), and the prospects for a clean energy boom in America (“I, for one, look forward to our new Chinese overlords”) are worth a listen.