Friday, January 6, 2017

A rant about celebrity impressions

King of the impressionists: Rich Little at the Laugh Factory.

Let me say right off the bat that I have always been fascinated with celebrity impressions and the people who do them. From a very young age, I always looked forward to seeing impressionists when they appeared on variety shows or talk shows. Johnny Carson and David Letterman booked a lot of celebrity mimics over the years, and I was grateful to them for that. Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena -- these were my boyhood heroes. Sketch shows like SCTV, Saturday Night Live, and In Living Color were always good showcases for celebrity impressions, too, with people like Dana Carvey and Darrell Hammond specializing in aping the rich and famous.

It must be weird and a little lonely being a famous impressionist. No one cares about you. They just care about the characters you do. It's like being a ventriloquist: Your act requires you to all but suppress your own personality. Ever notice how, in most ventriloquism acts, the human always has a very bland personality, and the dummy gets all the jokes? It's the same way with mimics. When they aren't in character, they're the saddest, most boring people ever.

Anyway, celebrity impressions are alive and well in the age of YouTube. Lots and lots of people do them. But it's devolved into a parlor trick. People don't even bother coming up with funny things for celebrities to say and do. They just copy the voice and mannerisms, and that's it. Well, I say, that's not good enough. Here's a YouTube rant on the topic. It's not meant to be an attack on anyone in particular, despite that angry-sounding title.