Impressionist (entertainment)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

An impressionist or a mimic is a performer whose act consists of imitating another person's voice and mannerisms. The word usually refers to a professional comedian/entertainer who specializes in such performances and has developed a wide repertoire of impressions, including adding to them, often to keep pace with current events. Impressionist performances are a classic Casino entertainment genre.

Someone who imitates one particular person without claiming a wide range, such as a lookalike, is instead called an impersonator. In very broad contexts, "impersonator" may be substituted for "impressionist" where the distinction between the two is less important than avoiding confusion with the use of "impressionist" in painting and music.

Usually the most "impressive" aspect of the performance is the vocal fidelity to the target — usually a politician or a famous person. Props may also be employed, such as glasses or hats, but these are now considered somewhat old-fashioned and cumbersome: the voice is expected to carry the act. There is a difference between being able to do "impressions" and being an "impressionist," which usually refers to a stage performer.

Because animated cartoons often lampoon famous people (sometimes obliquely), a facility for impressions is one of the marks of a successful voice actor. Many cartoon characters are intended to be recognized by the audience as evoking a specific celebrity, even when not explicitly named. With such indirect references, the entertainment value does not lie so much in the technical achievement of exactly reproducing the voice so much as in merely making it recognizable; the joke lies in the reference to a celebrity, not in its rendition.


In Britain

During the 1970s British television was awash with impressions of Frank Spencer, a character from a hugely popular British sitcom called Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. This may have been because Frank had such distinctive mannerisms and dress sense which gave performers a number of visual shortcuts to cover for failings in their abilities. For about a decade, no British impressionist's act was complete without Frank.

From the mid 1960s to the early 1980s Mike Yarwood dominated the impressionist scene, with his own TV shows regularly attracting more than 10 million viewers. Impressionists were very popular on the televised talent shows of the 1970s; Lenny Henry is a notable example of an act that developed from this.

In the 1990s there was a certain absence of impressionists on television, with the demise of Spitting Image and Rory Bremner mainly concentrating on political figures (notably John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and also members of the Royal Family). Then in 1999 came Alistair McGowan's Big Impression with Alistair McGowan and Ronni Ancona, and in 2002 came Dead Ringers. Both these shows featured impressions of celebrities and television personalities, and also sporting figures on the former and politicians on the latter.

The ICONS in London which ran at The Venue at Leicester Square January 4 - February 28, 2007, starring notable, American born English reared impressionist Greg London, is the first original musical that deals with impressions in depth. The book is by Greg London, West End theater director, David Taylor and London playwright, Paul Miller.

In North America

From the 1970s, Rich Little (Canadian expatriate working in America) has been the pre-eminent impressionist, mimicking politicians and celebrities. Performers in the Saturday Night Live cast have regularly performed impressions of politicians and celebrities. SNL alum and current host of NBC's Late Night, Jimmy Fallon, rose to fame with stand-up comedy acts featuring him doing impressions of many celebrities in varying scenarios such as auditioning for a Troll doll commercial. Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey is also known for his uncanny impressions of other movie stars, and during his appearance on Inside The Actor's Studio, demonstrated nine of these upon request, including Kathryn Hepburn, Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon. Frank Caliendo has recently come to fame for his impressions as well.

Some impressionists have more specialized acts in the art. For example, the Canadian comedian, André-Philippe Gagnon and the American Greg London are impressionists who impersonate celebrity singing voices. Legends In Concert produces musical impressionist shows known as tribute artist productions.

In India

Dr Nerella Venumadhav is a renowned mimic from India. He started his career in the year 1947 and enthralled millions of people all over the world. Nerella Venumadhav is one and only mimic who performed in UNO head quarters. He is also known as NV. He performs in English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil,Kannada and Telugu languages.He gave the first turn to this art when he started performing at the age of 15. He has no limitations in producing voices or sounds. He has a wide range of items to entertain people. Nerella Venumadhav imitates world politicians, film artists,singers,poets, scenes from Shakespeare's plays, popular movies including musical notes. He imitates the nativity, general characters and natural and mechanical sounds. He is treated as father of Indian mimicry. His disciple Srinivos, popularly known as Mimicry Srinivos is also a famous mimic, ventriloquist and voice illusionist from India. Srinivos performed a 32-hour nonstop mimicry show in 1990. Srinivos has been performing for the past 33 years and toured all over the world and busily performing and entertaining people of different languages. Like his guru, Srinivos also can perform in Telugu, Hindi, English and Tamil. Srinivos also has wide range of items like his master and specialized in sound imitation, voice imitation and sound illusion. He is the First Indian mimic to perform ventriloquism. Mimicry Srinivos also belongs to Warangal, a town from Andhra pradesh which is home town of Dr. Nerella Venumadhav.

In Hong Kong, China and Taiwan

The entertainment industries in Hong kong, China and Taiwan are famous for impersonations by singers. Jacky Cheung and Andy Lau are often considered the Elvis and Michael Jackson of many professional and amateur singers as role models for impersonating their voices. However, even well established singers like Adam Cheng is considered one of the first-generation impersonators. Notable singers/impersonators/comedians include Johnson Lee, Wong Cho Lam, Show Luo, Eason Chan, and JJ Lin and many more.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Impressionist (entertainment)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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