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Harry Shearer, Voice Of Ned Flanders And Mr. Burns, Will Leave 'The Simpsons'

Actor and writer Harry Shearer says he's leaving the cast of <em>The Simpsons</em>, the show he has been a part of since it first aired in 1989.
Dave J Hogan
Getty Images
Actor and writer Harry Shearer says he's leaving the cast of The Simpsons, the show he has been a part of since it first aired in 1989.

After 26 seasons of giving life to nincompoops, do-gooders, and even God, actor Harry Shearer has announced he'll be leaving The Simpsons. A stalwart of the show, Shearer has voiced central characters such as Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Reverend Lovejoy and Principal Seymour Skinner.

In a tweet sent in the wee hours of Thursday, Shearer said he was leaving "because I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work."

That message came on the heels of a quote from the lawyer for Simpsons producer James L. Brooks, saying the "show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best."

Shearer, 71, later sent a note saying, "Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support."

The development comes shortly after The Simpsons was renewed by Fox TV for two more seasons — and after reports emerged that the show's producers were having trouble reaching terms with all of their cast.

Earlier this week, Simpsons creator Matt Groening told TMZ, "We're hoping everybody's in."

On Thursday, executive producer and showrunner Al Jean tweeted, "The show will go on, made by people who love it and see in it the most wonderful vehicle for satire ever."

Jean tells CNN Money that the characters Shearer portrays will not be "killed off" but producers will turn to "the most talented members of the voice over community."

Shearer voices a wide range of characters on The Simpsons, including Waylon Smithers, Kent Brockman, Lenny Leonard, Eddie Muntz, Rainer Wolfcastle and Scratchy.

In addition to his Simpsons workload, Shearer has also acted onstage and in movies and recorded several CDs of musical satire. For the past 30 years, he has hosted a public radio show, Le Show. And in 2014, his TV series Nixon's the One, which originally aired on Britain's Sky network, streamed online.

Update at 1:38 p.m. ET: Clarifying 'The Big Uneasy'

Shearer, who lives in New Orleans, noticed our post's mention that he "has also been a vocal critic of how the Hurricane Katrina disaster was handled, directing and narrating the documentary The Big Uneasy."

It was the investigations into what caused the devastating flooding of 2005, not the hurricane response, that the film explores, Shearer says.

On his website, Shearer has written about the film, "the flooding of New Orleans was not a natural disaster, but rather the product of more than four decades of design and construction flaws in a system Congress had ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to build to, ironically, protect New Orleans from serious damage from a hurricane."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: May 14, 2015 at 12:00 AM EDT
In this blog post, we said that Harry Shearer's film The Big Uneasy was about the way the Hurricane Katrina disaster was handled. As Shearer has tweeted, the film was about investigations into what caused the flooding in New Orleans in 2005.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.