I've been thinking about this and I wanted to know everyone else's thoughts on the topic.

I am often asked by clients to do an impersonation of a character or personality and the problem is that they are confused by what they think they want. Most are asking for an IMPRESSION but what they really want is an IMPERSONATION. I find that an impression is a little DIFFERENT from an impersonation.

I view a voice impression as just that, an IMPRESSION, like that of a coin pressed to the skin; leaving an impression. It's not the exact sound of the character, but it's enough to give the IDEA of that person. Listeners have a ability to fill in the blanks, especially when you provide a moving image to distract the perfection of a voice. Impressions are almost like a characterization of a person. For example, breaking down the character of celebrity to their core characteristics of dialect, mannerisms and pitch, people can recognize who you are speaking like based on a few key elements.

An impersonation is different from an impression because it is the act of pretending to be that exact character and this requires a higher level of meticulous accuracy in mimicry. A great example is the bio-pic films with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles or Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote. Adding all the physical and mental elements to simulate that they are that actual person.

I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about this, do you find impressions are separate from impersonations? Or are they the same thing? What level of mimicry fools the audience into believing that you are that other person?

Take a look at this video showcasing impersonation or as they call it "impression" :

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Replies to This Discussion

> do you find impressions are separate from impersonations? Or are they the same thing?

Not the same thing. I define both the same as you. I agree that people generally confuse the two.

> What level of mimicry fools the audience into believing that you are that other person?

I don't know about trying to "fool" the audience at all -- that doesn't even seem applicable. I don't do much performing as a full-out impersonator. To date, I've only done Frank Sinatra, Barney Fife, and Bill Clinton for some events. Otherwise, I'm usually doing impressions as part of my stand-up act. I don't enjoy doing the costume and make-up part of impersonations. Call it vanity, but I'd rather be doing impressions as myself -- they tend to get more laughs, for starters. Also, once you're in costume/make-up doing an impersonation, you're pretty much stuck doing that character until either the show ends or you go to do your next costume change. As myself, I can switch between characters and impressions and keep it flowing without having to stop for wardrobe changes.

And for me, the voice is key. Sadly, there are far too many *impersonators* out there who think that you only have to look and act the part, and then they open their mouth and sound nothing like whatever celebrity they are impersonating.

But if you are doing a full-out impersonation, it's a combination of all those factors -- voice, mannerisms, costume, and make-up -- that makes it believable and entertaining. It also requires that you have some acting talent. I was on the website recently of a Vegas entertainer. I won't mention his name or website, but for all his accolades and self-promotion, his videos showed me he wasn't that great of an impressionist or an impersonator. In fact, he was a little cheesy and vocally some of the impressions just fell short. But he was a showman with a lot of comedic physicality. I guess if you aren't a skilled impressionist, you have to boost the physical comedy and the costumes to entertain when in reality it's a distraction that fools the audience into thinking you're a master impressionist.

But then again, the guy's been a Vegas entertainer for quite some time. If he wasn't entertaining, he wouldn't still be doing shows in Vegas.


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