The man behind over a dozen “The Simpsons” characters – including Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns — spoke on campus last night about the U.S. government’s current political policies.
About 500 people attended comedian Harry Shearer’s Campbell Hall performance, which incorporated standup and film clips interspersed with segments of song into a lecture about a broad range of political issues, including some recent national security measures, the ongoing war in Iraq and the George W. Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Shearer, who is the voice of the Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders characters, integrated elements of his years of professional experience as a screenwriter, comedian, impressionist and humor novelist into his lecture, which drew laughter from the audience throughout the entire performance.
The lecture’s patriotic opening — a humorously discordant Larry King-style rendition of the National Anthem — was followed by a few songs with more satirical tones, including a country ballad mocking Bush’s coined phrase “We are addicted to oil.” During the song, Shearer questioned Bush’s choice of words to describe the U.S.’ dependency on foreign oil, noting that the president is a recovering alcoholic.
Later, when discussing his views about the United States’ entrance into the war in Iraq, Shearer emphasized his confusion as to why the U.S., which he described as a world superpower, felt so inclined to respond to threats from a bearded extremist — a line that was followed by laughter and applause.
“When a bearded man in the sandy hills of Afghanistan declares war on the most powerful country in the world, and it means we need to declare war back, that is absurd,” Shearer said.
Shearer also addressed his concerns with the Dept. of Homeland Security’s efforts to strengthen national security. In particular, Shearer said he was confused by the outrageously precise and complex safety regulations of our country’s airports.
“Can someone please explain how it was determined in two months by the CIA that 3 ounces of liquid is safe, but 4 ounces threatens national security?” Shearer said. “If so please come find me afterward and explain.”
He proceeded to critique the inconsistency of other measures conducted in the name of national security, telling audience members he disapproved of the recent influx of new rules and regulations created for citizens at airports and other public transportation agencies. These regulations are not for safety, Shearer said, but rather they are just “scare tactics” the government uses to worry citizens.
“It is all just a theater, designed to keep airline companies in business,” Shearer said. “And to scare the shit out of you.”
Shearer, a part-time resident of New Orleans, also focused on Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of which, according to him, can be credited to the federal government’s failure to construct proper flood-control infrastructure in New Orleans.
“People blame the wrath of the hurricane, but they were really betrayed by a shoddily built federal flood system; people need to discover what is really going on in Katrina.”
Towards the end of the performance, Shearer came on to the stage, donned a cowboy hat and sang one of his own songs in a convincing Texas twang as he stood before an image of a rippling American Flag.
“Let the flag-burners burn on the Fourth of July,” Shearer sang. “We’ll fire up some ‘taters and burn the desecrators on the Fourth of July.”