From Fun Home to Waitress, from Next to Normal to Finding Neverland - it's always fun collating the various rumours flying around theatreland. After a very busy...
Harry Shearer will play 'Joe' in Daytona at the Haymarket Theatre Royal, from 30 Jun to 23 Aug 2014.
Date of birth?
23 December 1943
Place of birth?
Los Angeles, USA
Did you go to training school, if so which one?
Did not attend training school.
Briefly tell us how you became involved with Daytona.
I had gotten to know Maureen [Maureen Lipman, actress, and Harry's co-star in Daytona] socially just a little bit - we'd been to dinner a couple of times with mutual friends and had lively, funny conversations. And then I got sent the script for "Daytona" with the info that Maureen had recommended me for the part. That was it.
Briefly tell us about the character of 'Joe' you play in Daytona.
He's an Austrian Jewish refugee living in Brooklyn. Both he and his wife had spent time in camps - not the good kind - as had his brother. He and his wife have built a new life together, based partly on keeping the past at bay and partly on their shared love of ballroom dancing.
What was your first stage performance?
I was in a production of Christopher Durang's "Beyond Therapy" in Los Angeles in the mid 80s.
What roles would you most like to play?
Actually, I'm fascinated by two roles, both in musicals: Fagin in "Oliver" and Pangloss in "Candide".
What's the best advice you've ever received?
My mom told me to use every talent I'd been given. You never know which one will pay off.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
As a child actor, I came out onstage in the warm-up for the Jack Benny Show when I heard the announcer beckon me from the wings. Except he hadn't said 'Harry", he'd said "Mary", introducing Jack Benny's wife. I got a big laugh, and I was mortified.
What is the most annoying part about your job?
A lot of show-biz executives think being in this particular business gives them blanket immunity for bad behaviour.
If you had not become a performer, what might you have done instead?
Worked with children.
What are your favourite after-show haunts?
I really tend to go have a nice little meal nearby the theatre and then scamper home.
Who are your favourite actors/actresses/singers/groups?
Well, here's a way to make enemies, leave someone off this list. I love Alison Steadman, Jennifer Saunders, Andy Serkis; big fan of XTC, Squeeze, Fountains of Wayne, Alice Russell, Celso Fonseca, Lenine, Jon Cleary, Galactic, Charlie Wood, The Meters.
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and what would you say to them?
Jack Benny, and I'd just say "thank you".
What was the last book you read, and name some of your favourite authors?
Reading three right now: The Circle by Dave Eggers, 1945 Year Zero by Ian Buruma, and Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller. Long a fan of Stanley Elkin and John Gregory Toole.
What was the last film you saw, and name some of your favourite movies?
Last film I saw was "Grand Hotel Budapest" - won't do that again. Love "Dr. Stangelove" and the original "To Be Or Not To Be", "Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll", "Singin' in the Rain", anything by Laurel & Hardy. Really liked "American Hustle", and a beautiful Indian film called "Water".
Favourite TV programs?
I mainly watch NBA basketball and the news. I do like "Episodes", and "Harry and Paul" and "Armstrong & Miller".
Favourite holiday destinations?
Do you have any hobbies?
I love to play basketball. I'm learning to bow the upright bass. I love to cook.
Do you have any superstitions?
No, I'd be afraid to have any.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
1. A major continent. That would be sufficient.
What are your future plans?
My wife and I are trying to learn to enjoy taking more vacations. I will get a musical comedy I co-wrote made, one way or the other; it's called 'Here Comes J. Edgar!'. And I aspire to stick around until even I'm tired of me.