Harry Shearer has been voicing characters on “The Simpsons” since its pilot first aired back in 1989, and although he almost walked away in 2015, he is still an integral and cromulent part of the show 30 seasons later. During that time, “The Simpsons” has introduced an enormous number of Springfield residents to the world, but since the main cast only consists of six actors, Shearer’s workload is quite large. Due to the fact that he voices at least a dozen regulars, a bunch of semi-regulars and countless one-off and background characters, it’s difficult to keep track of who’s who. To clarify this, and to honor the actor ahead of his 75th birthday on Dec. 23, here are 20 characters from “The Simpsons” you might not know are voiced by Harry Shearer.
Charles Montgomery Burns might be Shearer’s most used voice on the show, as the 104-year-old curmudgeon is Homer’s boss at the nuclear power plant (and the manager of its former softball team), Springfield’s richest resident and owner of half the town. He’s constantly plotting things like blocking out the sun, stealing greyhound puppies for their fur and humiliating and insulting his employees (and the poor in general) in various ways. Most people don’t care for Burnsy, with the obvious exception of Mr. Smithers, of course. Burns’ appearance is a mix of Fox founder Barry Diller and a praying mantis, but Shearer based the voice on Lionel Barrymore and Ronald Reagan.
Waylon Smithers is Mr. Burns’ loyal longtime assistant, who not only cares for his boss on a professional level, but is also secretly (or not-so-secretly, after 30 seasons) in love with Burns. Smithers also loves Malibu Stacy dolls, but he doesn’t care for Homer or bees, as he is severely allergic to the latter. Impressively, when recording an episode, Shearer is capable of voicing conversations between Smithers and Mr. Burns in a single take.
He’s an elementary school principal, he treats his mother well and he’s an army veteran? Principal Seymour Skinner certainly sounds like a catch, but his school is full of underperforming students, he’s close with his mother because he lives with her and while in Vietnam, he stole the identity of a fellow P.O.W. in order to escape his past life as Armin Tamzarian, a street punk from Capital City. Skinner is now a total square, but maybe that has something to do with his tortured past and his lingering PTSD from the war...after all, he did watch an elephant eat his entire platoon.
Hi-diddly-ho, neighborinos! Shearer also voices the Simpson family’s next-door neighbor, Ned Flanders. A 60-year-old devout Christian who doesn’t drink or dance or swear, Flanders loves everything and everyone, except for his parents and the post office. He readily lends any and all his possessions to Homer, even though Homer never returns them, and is so polite and forgiving that he refuses to press Homer on the issue. Despite this generosity, Homer says he absolutely hates Flanders, although it is suggested the Simpsons patriarch is actually jealous of his neighbor. Flanders has two kids, Rod and Todd, and has been widowed twice, once by his longtime wife Maude and again by Edna Krabappel, with the latter occurring after the real-life death of voice actress Marcia Wallace. But everything is still okely-dokely for ol’ Steady Neddy, who actually wasn’t going to be a fanatical Christian until the show’s producers heard Shearer’s proposed voice for the character and tweaked his bio.
Reverend Timothy Lovejoy is a pastor at the First Church of Springfield (affiliated with the Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism) who Shearer voices in a low-pitched drawl while putting an emphasis on almost every word in a way only a preacher can. Lovejoy was once an enthusiastic young pastor, but he became disillusioned with his parishioners after hearing the constant concerns, confessions and fears of Ned Flanders on a daily basis. Tim is married to Helen, the town gossip, and has a daughter, Jessica, a devious little deviant whom Bart likens to a Milk Dud: sweet on the outside and poison on the inside.
One of Homer’s closest friends, Lenny Leonard is almost always seen with Carl Carlson (Hank Azaria), as the two both work at the plant with Homer and enjoy frequenting Moe’s Tavern. For some reason, most Springfieldians seem to revere Lenny, even though his life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Although he possesses a master’s degree in nuclear physics, he’s not married (despite telling Carl otherwise), has some sort of issue with constantly getting objects in his eye and lives in a bare house where he eats food straight out of the can.
Although he always laughs at inappropriate times, Dr. Julius Hibbert is among the more intelligent citizens of Springfield. He apparently had two long-lost brothers (including Bleeding Gums Murphy), a wife and three kids, with the family bearing a resemblance to the Huxtables. Dr. Hibbert has been the Simpson family physician since as far back as Marge’s pregnancy with Bart, and he has saw them through countless accidents, medical conditions and operations. The exception, of course, is when the Simpsons are tight on money and go to discount doctor Nick Riviera (Hank Azaria) instead.
This just in: Channel 6 News’ own Kent Brockman is voiced by Shearer. The shameless and sensationalist anchor and host of shows like “Smartline” and “Eye on Springfield” was once an eager young reporter named Kenny Brockelstein, but now he’s the most famous journalist in town and living large — not only because the local news gig pays $500,000 a year, but because he won a $130 million lottery jackpot in the season 3 episode “Dog of Death.”
Scratchy, one half of the violent cartoon cat-and-mouse duo known as “Itchy & Scratchy,” is also voiced by Shearer. For the record, Scratchy (a black anthropomorphic cat) is usually the victim on the show, as he ends up getting diced, decapitated, disemboweled or otherwise tortured by the sadistic Itchy. Shearer’s voice has to sound somewhat garbled and high-pitched when voicing Scratchy, but that’s nothing compared to the extremely shrill voice Dan Castellaneta has to provide for Itchy.
The gravelly voiced Otto loves listening to classic rock and heavy metal (Zeppelin rules!) on his ever-present headphones, playing guitar and air guitar, squatting in condemned houses and ingesting various hallucinogens. Just the kind of guy you’d want driving a school bus full of elementary school students for a living, right? Once a temporary resident of the Simpson household, Otto Mann was also once engaged to a woman named Becky, but he left her when she made him choose between her and his music. He is perpetually stoned, the status of his driver's license is always questionable and he has crashed the school bus at least a couple of dozen times — but at least he has yet to record a single fatality.
Jasper Beardsly lives at the Springfield Retirement Castle with Abe Simpson and often tags along on his adventures. Of course, Jasper has no problem coming up with things to do on his own, including finding work as a substitute teacher at Springfield Elementary (with a penchant for paddling), frequenting the local burlesque house and freezing himself in the Kwik-E-Mart ice cream aisle in order to see the future. However, the grumbling senior has had several close brushes with death in addition to his freezer stunt, like almost being hit by a school bus, getting his beard caught in a pencil sharpener, taking the wrong pills and being shot in his artificial leg by Mr. Smithers.
With the exception of one episode, season 26’s “The Man Who Came to Be Dinner,” the aliens Kang and Kodos have only appeared in Halloween episodes. However, since there has been a “Treehouse of Horror” special every year since season 2, the giant green duo have racked up some serious screen time. Whether the segment centers on them or just includes a brief cameo, we’re always happy to see our friends from Rigel VII, including the Shearer-voiced Kang. If you need help remembering the differences between the two near-identical aliens, Kang was the one who was revealed to be Maggie’s biological father (in a non-canonical episode, of course).
Police Chief Clancy Wiggum (Hank Azaria) is almost always accompanied by at least one of his second in commands, Lou and Eddie. For the record, Eddie is the white one, who also happens to be voiced by Shearer. Both Lou and Eddie have their dumb moments, but clearly possess superior intelligence levels when compared to their boss. Also, there’s a long-running fan conspiracy theory that Eddie might be Ralph Wiggum’s real father, as they both have hair that is illustrated in the same thin and stringy style.
Herman, owner of Herman’s Military Antiques, only appears in episodes on occasion, but he can be traced all the way back to season 1, episode 5, “Bart the General.” As shown in that episode, Herman was once a brilliant military strategist, and as a friend of Abe Simpson, he helps Bart defeat local bully Nelson Muntz. However, in addition to hocking military artifacts, Herman is also involved in some shady dealings, like selling counterfeit jeans out of the Simpsons’ car hole, or something akin to the gimp scene in “Pulp Fiction,” where Herman can be heard saying, “As soon as Zed gets here, the party will begin.” According to Shearer, the inspiration for Herman’s voice was none other than late President George H. W. Bush.
Might as well throw this out there since we just alluded to it: Shearer also voices George H. W. Bush on “The Simpsons.” The show had a complicated relationship with the late president both during and after his term. This stems from a 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention where he opined that American families need to be “more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons,” and the showrunners have poked fun at him ever since. Among other appearances, Bush is shown in a Three Stooges-like situation with Presidents Clinton and Carter, he is depicted as waiting in a line for his unemployment check and even has a whole episode involving him and Barbara moving across the street from the Simpsons in season 7’s “Two Bad Neighbors.”
Mr. Dewey Largo teaches music at Springfield Elementary, and despite having an extremely talented saxophonist in Lisa, he almost always appears downtrodden and disappointed in regard to the school’s talent pool. (Keep in mind that the school’s second-most intelligent student, Martin Prince, only plays the triangle, and, among other underperforming students, there’s also Ralph Wiggum playing a flute that’s stuck up his nose.) His interests include other men, as it is implied on a couple of occasions that Largo not only is gay, but has a boyfriend also named Dewey. His pet peeves include people who find the word “tromboner” funny and Milhouse. (“Nobody likes Milhouse!”)
When the Simpsons needed family therapy in the show’s first season, they went to see the gravelly voiced, bespectacled, bearded Dr. Marvin Monroe, who tested out a bit of electroshock therapy...with disastrous results, of course. He appeared on the show in person and in TV commercials numerous times throughout the first few seasons, but suddenly, the only references to Dr. Monroe implied that he had died, including showing a memorial hospital and even the Doctor’s grave. Since there was no on-screen death and no details were given, the showrunners had a little fun with this by briefly showing Dr. Monroe in a season 15 episode. When Marge sees him at a book signing, she reacts in shock, and Monroe hastily (and simply) explains that he has “been very sick.”
Dr. J. Loren Pryor got a lot of screen time in the early seasons of “The Simpsons,” as the Springfield Elementary School psychologist was used to develop and reinforce the character traits of Bart and Lisa to audiences. Specifically, he was there to show that Lisa is a gifted student and Bart is an underachieving hell-raiser. The well-spoken Dr. Pryor was seemingly retired from the show after season 6’s “Bart the Comet,” but he suddenly made an appearance more than a decade later in season 17’s “See Homer Run” and later in both season 21’s “Treehouse of Horror XX” and season 22’s “The Blue and the Gray.”
As the most popular superhero in the Simpsons’ universe, Radioactive Man is usually shown in the pages of his various comic books and is talked about more than he actually talks. However, in the few instances where Radioactive Man’s narration is used to read his parts in the comics, Shearer provides the voice. In the season 7 episode “Radioactive Man,” a live-action movie is to be made about the superhero (and filmed in Springfield), and the titular part is given to Rainier Wolfcastle, a fictional Arnold Schwarzenegger-type character. Coincidentally, Wolfcastle is also voiced by Shearer.
Of course, Shearer would voice Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls when the band had a cameo in season 3’s “The Otto Show.” After all, Shearer co-wrote the 1984 mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap” and starred in it as Smalls. In their appearance on “The Simpsons,” the band is as inept and ignorant as they are in the film, but in the show, they meet an untimely end. When Otto realizes he is late bringing the students to school, he recklessly speeds and runs Spinal Tap’s tour bus off the road, and it promptly bursts into flames.