The old saying, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, certainly holds true when it comes to imitating others. And you know that each one of us is guilty of imitating someone at least once in our lifetime. Or once a day, depending on what colorful people are nearby. Rather it be a friend, a boss, or a celebrity, we have somehow managed to mangle their voice, posture, or gestures for the amusement of others. It is just who we are. Some of us are pretty good at it. Some of us should probably not do it again. I am in the first group. Right up there with Rich Little. Really.
Rich Little, nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” was and still is one of the greatest impersonators ever. He could imitate celebrities, such as Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, and my favorite, Richard Nixon. He had a vast repertoire of voices, and I was in awe of his talent. I was just a kid, but I tried it out myself. I stood in front of the mirror, trying to get the look and the phrase just so. I remember sitting in front of the tv, watching a Jerry Lewis movie, with my brother. The next thing you know, David IS Jerry Lewis. We were little and goofy, but it was one of the first times I remember imitating someone. I do remember David and I trying our best, “Whack-a-doo, Whack-a-doo” in our best Jerry Lewis voice. We sucked. But, boy did we have fun. You have no idea how excited I was to find this clip. This brings back such great memories of antics with my brother. Weird, I know, but that’s how we rolled.
Now, you have to understand that as a child of the sixties, we only had three television stations, so we had limited viewing options. We could imitate Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan, or Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show, and in 1965, we finally got Gomer Pyle. Everyone was imitating Gomer.
“Shazam…….Shame Shame Shame……….Surprise Surprise Surprise…………Golly.” Soon everyone was doing the Gomer. Then came Tarzan and Jane movies and everyone tried their best Tarzan yell. Carol Burnett even imitated it often on her own show.
Then came Johnny Carson, who was a wonderful impersonator. This clip of him impersonating President Ronald Reagan was hysterical.
I don’t get the impersonators of today. I guess there is a difference between an impersonator and an impressionist. I don’t want to go to a whole show with someone who is pretending to be Marilyn Monroe or Abe Lincoln. I am not talking about that. I’m talking about people who are on stage and can do many impressions. I did watch a great Michael Jackson impersonator at a resort in Cancun, Mexico, last summer. He was awesome, but it was free, part of the wonderful all-inclusive that I came to love. But, I wouldn’t have gone if I had to pay for it.
Every summer the little town that I just moved away from had a festival and hired an Elvis impersonator as one of the stage events. You would have thought that Elvis never left the building and was alive and well, gyrating to his sounds to the many swooning white haired women in the audience. I sat on my front porch, chuckling at the madness. Um, that is not really Elvis on stage, people.
Now, I do think I that Tina Fey did an awesome job impersonating Sarah Palin. Many of the Saturday Night Live actors throughout the years have mocked famous people. Chevy Chase, for example, did a great job impersonating former President Gerald Ford. Ford was a clumsy man, and Chevy Chase did a great job tripping and falling. Dana Carvey and Darrel Hammond were wonderful with their impressions of George Bush 1 and 2.
So, impressions are all around us. There is even one who impersonated a cat.
Penn or Teller doing Mr. Boots, the Cat- I get the two guys mixed up. The shorter, quiet guy was on an episode of Dharma and Greg years ago. This has got to be one of the funniest espisodes that I have seen on tv. I couldn’t quit laughing the first time I watched it.Great impersonation of a non human.
Ok, so that takes care of the famous impersonators. Normal, every day people think that they are great impersonators too. My son, for example, can do an awesome Kermit the Frog. He used to be able to do Mrs. Doubtfire when he was younger. He also tried to do Bill Clinton, but that ended up sounding like Mrs. Doubtfire.My ex thought he could do Tom Brokaw, but he just sucked. That’s why the clip of Dana Carvey doing Tom Brokaw when Gerald Ford dies is so hysterical.
But, throughout my life, I have impersonated many a celebrity. I entertained my sorority sisters and patrons at bars with my uncany impressionistic talent. Sure, maybe there were a few times that I didn’t actually remember doing an impression. Case in point. I performed my routine in Ocean City Maryland in 1977 and wasn’t even aware of it. I was lying on the beach, minding my own spring break business, when friends that we met up with the night before, laid their towels out next to ours.
“Vickie, you were so funny last night. Sing “Where the Boys Are again.”
Um, what? Say what? Looks like Little Vickie had more than three beers the night before.I guess I did all of my impressions with a high success rate. It helps when there are drunks in the house.
Here are some of the people that I thought I could imitate.
1. Rhoda Penmark-Ok, most of you have no idea who I am talking about. Rhoda Penmark was a character in the movie, “The Bad Seed.” I loved that role and watched the movie to the point where I knew all of her lines. She was an evil little girl, and I thought I had her down pat. Problem was, only my family and closest friends really knew who she was. It was a great movie.
”You better give me those shoes. They’re mine! Give them back to me!” Oh, yeah, I sound just like her.
2.. Paul Lynde- Ah, Paul Lynde, my favorite impression person. I loved Paul Lynde. He was funny as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and hysterical on Hollywood Squares.He had an unforgetable voice. And his laugh was ornery. I sounded just like him. Of course, I only had one line I could repeat like him.
“You think it’s easy?” But, it was his laugh that I could do. I was good. Really.
3. Connie Francis’s “Where the Boys Are”- I can’t sing for the life of me, but I can belt out “Where the Boys Are,” and I guarantee I sounded just like her. Oh, I would oblige anyone anytime the first line of her hit song. I was Connie. The song starts at around 1:32.
“Where the boys are, someone waits for me.” Ta-da.
4. The Swedish Chef-I love the Muppets and could do a great Swedish Chef imitation when my kids were little. I entertained them so.
5.. The Mayor of Munchkinland-Ok, I’m not kidding now. I WAS the mayor of Munchkinland in our sorority rush events. I can talk munchkin like no one else. Really. I’m that good.You know how the munchkins sounded.
6.. Cousin Itt on the Addams Family- I know you are quite envious of my talent up to now, but my Cousin Itt impression was Dead on. I mean it.
I know what you are thinking. Yeah, I am quite talented. Thank you. I can also do impressions of Lisa Douglass on Green Acres, Peter Lorre’s “Yes, master,” Snoopy in Pain (a drunk favorite), E.T. phoning home, and I really should have tried out for the Afflac duck.
So, think about it the next time you make fun of your boss, or mock your mother-in-law. You are just being creative. It’s our nature to imitate.
After all, that’s how we got cubic zirconium rings instead of the real thing. Can’t really tell them apart, now can we?