The Emmy-winning comedic actor, also known for his roles in cult comedy classics like “This Is Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind,” revealed on social media Wednesday that he was exiting the show. He tweeted apparent quotes from the executive producer’s attorney, such as, “from James L. Brooks lawyer: ‘show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.” Brooks later confirmed Shearer’s departure on Twitter but said, “Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.”
Shearer voices some of the show’s most popular characters — including the villainous Mr. Burns and his devoted sidekick Mr. Smithers, Principal Seymour Skinner and the religiously devout Ned Flanders. Shearer is also responsible for some of the hit TV show’s sharpest political parodies. He’s voiced exaggerated spoofs of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rush Limbaugh (under the fictional name Birch Barlow).
The 71-year-old is rumored to be walking away from a $14 million deal, which according to producers is the same sum being offered to the other principal cast members of the show. Despite reports of a contract dispute, Shearer, who has been on the show since its debut back in 1989, alluded to a desire to “do other work” while breaking the news on Twitter.
“Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support,” he tweeted early on Thursday.
This will be something of a break with “Simpsons” tradition. For instance, when the late “Saturday Night Live” alum Phil Hartman was killed in 1998, his signature characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure never reappeared on the show.
Still, “Simpsons” fans should take heart in the fact that the cast has had very public battles in the past over salaries but have always eventually settled in time to save the show and keep the ensemble intact.
Earlier this month, Fox signed on for two more seasons of the show which would extend the beloved institution into a historic 28th season in 2017.