Dopey and Sleepy

In Harry Shearers America, there are more small people

Basically, it's the CSI approach to television. Everything is about the procedural aspect of things. I can tell you, Studio 60doesn't look or sound like anything I ever saw at Saturday Night Live. People do not stand in the hall and say, "Fuck me? Fuck you!" No, power at that level is exercised more subtly. It's: "I'll schedule a meeting then be two hours late for that meeting just to show you I can."

You have a long history with radio. One thing you always hear is where is the counterbalance to Rush Limbaugh? I'm assuming you've been approached about that.

Yeah, I've been approached to do it, but I have zero interest in being on radio every day. If you're doing that, several things happen. Just in terms of the art, the mandate switches from honing and refining to stretching and repeating. Your work just isn't going to be as good. If you want to do anything else with your life, you're going to have to hire support people, writers, and now it's not really your voice. Instead you become a caricature of yourself.

I'm also assuming Air America came calling?

Yes, I was approached by Air America. But I don't want to be on a network where they might say, "Hey, hey, hey, hey! Stop making fun of Al Gore!"

Why do you think Air America didn't work?

Because they didn't hire radio people. They thought they could just hire anyone and it would work. What they missed is that radio is its own specific art. When you look at people like Rush Limbaugh or Laura Schlessinger, these people were on radio for years and years before coming up with their present personas. They understand radio. For whatever reasons, liberals don't respect radio.

Yeah, I've noticed that on Air America you'll have a lot of dead air, which is, well, death.

Well, you can have dead air if you know how to use it. You know, Rush will shuffle papers and it kind of builds the suspense. You can use the pauses if you have something to say. Air America can't seem to think of anything to say.

Harry Shearer performs at the Carpenter Center on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, 6200 Atherton Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 985-4274; www.carpenterarts.org. Fri.-Sat., Oct. 13-14, 8 p.m. $45; students and seniors, $40.

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