Impressions & Impersonations

Mar 9, 2011

I'm not even sure the comedy sub-species "impressionist" really exists any more.

For decades, performers like David Frye, Rich Little, Frank Gorshin and John Byner made careers out of the gift for impersonation. Frye had an astonishingly rubbery face that could shape itself into the jowly folds of Lyndon Johnson and, in a flash, twist into the long-jawed scowl of Richard Nixon.  As variety shows gave way to TV comedy rep troupes following the model of Saturday Night Live and SCTV, impersonation was more likely to be one weapon in a cast member's arsenal. Rick Moranis had Woody Allen, Dave Thomas nailed Bob Hope, Billy Crystal's Sammy Davis Jr. was a gem and Martin Short could do just about everybody else. I always loved impressionists, but I'm not sure I understand why. There's something magical about mimicry, Suddenly, one person's voice and mannerisms are pouring out of someone else.  Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin. ***This episode originally broadcast March 9, 2011***