Watch Harry Shearer’s Faithful Recreation of Nixon’s Resignation

Antho­ny Hop­kins.

Frank Lan­gel­la.

And now, come­di­an Har­ry Shear­er.

What role do these gift­ed per­form­ers have in com­mon?


Nope. Nixon.

Lan­gel­la and Sir Antho­ny res­ur­rect­ed the 37th pres­i­dent with­in the frame­work of care­ful­ly craft­ed screen­plays. Shearer’s approach is just as actor­ly, but his mate­r­i­al isn’t exact­ly script­ed. Instead, he and Nixon schol­ar Stan­ley Kut­ler pieced it togeth­er from unof­fi­cial ban­ter on the 3,700 hours of audio­tape Nixon secret­ly record­ed while in office, sup­ple­ment­ing with notes by those who were there.

The result is Nixon’s The One, a fly-on-the-wall web series in which vir­tu­oso impro­vis­er Shear­er sticks scrupu­lous­ly to the script, recre­at­ing every pause and awk­ward chuck­le. Com­pare Shearer’s lead up to Nixon’s tele­vised res­ig­na­tion above, to the real thing, below.

It’s uncom­fort­able, uncan­ny, dis­so­cia­tive, and strange­ly human.

The only false note is Shearer’s glar­ing­ly obvi­ous pros­thet­ic nose, though giv­en the pro­fes­sion­al, peri­od-accu­rate set, this may have been a delib­er­ate choice. Despite his insis­tence on authen­tic­i­ty, a biopic is clear­ly not what cre­ator Shear­er had in mind.

He’s been in train­ing for this project for close to half a cen­tu­ry, long before the idea itself was hatched. His first turn as Nixon came as a young, make-up free mem­ber of the L.A. com­e­dy group, the Cred­i­bil­i­ty Gap.

The next was on Sun­day Best, a 1991 mid-sea­son replace­ment on NBC. “I did a sketch I don’t think ever aired,” he told the Wall Street Jour­nal, “Nixon as a guest on an infomer­cial demon­strat­ing a mag­i­cal teeth-whiten­ing prepa­ra­tion.”

Le Show, Shearer’s extreme­ly fun­ny radio show, pro­vid­ed a forum for yet anoth­er ridicu­lous exer­cise at Tricky Dick’s expense.

The one-time polit­i­cal sci­ence major has elect­ed to play it straight with this ver­ba­tim, long form labor of love, in order let the weird, unin­ten­tion­al com­e­dy of Richard Nixon shine through. Find all the videos in the Nixon’s the One series here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Richard Nixon’s Tips For Get­ting Pan­das to Have Sex, Caught on New­ly-Revealed Audio Tape (1972)

The Moon Dis­as­ter That Wasn’t: Nixon’s Speech In Case Apol­lo 11 Failed to Return

Nixon and Kissinger: Best of Allies and Rivals

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She embar­rassed her par­ents on a child­hood tour of the Nixon White House unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly bois­ter­ous demands to see Tricky Dick and a queasy stom­ach that  healed itself in time for a vis­it to a Lafayette Square hot dog ven­dor. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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