You loved him as Mr. Burns. You feared him as Nixon.
(Or maybe it was the other way around.)
Anyway, now Harry Shearer takes on a yet more demanding (or was that “demeaning”) role—Donald Trump.
During his Sunday night radio program (um, I meant “podcast”), “Le Show,” Shearer has, ever since the 2016 election, reluctantly coughed up the words “president Donald Trump” with something between a sardonic chuckle and a dismissive guffaw.
Shearer’s new video depicts Trump singing a song in praise of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, It’s the first track of his forthcoming album, The Many Moods of Donald Trump —“a cycle of satirical songs inspired by the last four years of U.S. politics and in particular the often mercurial behavior of the current occupant of The White House.”
Written by Shearer, the video is based on “Mother-in-Law,” an Allen Toussaint tune that was a hit in 1961 for Ernie K-Doe. The band includes A-list New Orleans musicians such pianist David Torkanowsky, bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Raymond Weber. Even their innate sense of groove can’t rescue Trump’s characteristically rhythm-less phrasing, which Shearer captures.
I talked to Shearer about this latest role, and his presidential fixation.
Who has been your favorite president to portray, and why?
I think it’d be a tie between G.W. Bush and Nixon. The former, because it was so much fun to write his mangled syntax—the one I recall is when he told an aide, “You’re preaching to the chorus girls.”The latter, of course, because he was as corroded by resentment and grievance as the current guy, but he also felt the need to cover it all up with a facade of “dignity.”And, as I studied him anew for the TV series in Britain, I was reminded with new force of his array of gestures and expressions which tend toward the feminine—the fluttering of eyelashes, the hands that flutter upwards. Nixon worked so hard to mask his feelings, and then they forced themselves out in the lovely and appalling moments like “Governor Evidence.”
What preparation—physical, mental or spiritual— goes into “becoming Trump”?
For the video, the preparation is strapping into an array of garments—a kind of electronic wetsuit, a somewhat annoying headpiece, and a set of gloves. The hardest preparation is to get into the deadness of affect that defines his vocal intonations.
What do you think Ernie K-Doe would have to say about living under Trump’s rule?
I think Ernie would say “Shut up!”
Can you tell me a couple of other highlights from the album?
Yeah, the idea is going to be releasing a song a week, with another video (“Executive Time”) along the way. There’s a Stormy song, a song about his irresolute course in the pandemic (“COVID-180”), and of course a self-tribute to his mental acuity (“Very Stable Genius”).
Are you still laughing whenever you utter Trump’s name?
On the radio, yes. Ever finding new ways to chuckle.