Another early influence (previous report: Bill Cosby) on my interest in performing and voice acting is master impressionist Rich Little.
Little’s skill as a mimic is legendary as evidenced in this classic clip from the infamous Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Jimmy Stewart, in which Little attempts to teach Stewart how to do a Jimmy Stewart impression:
And in this clip from The David Letterman Show, Little imitates Dr. Phil, a few U.S. Presidents, Andy Rooney, and Johnny Carson…as an ostrich:
His impressions are multi-layered, detailed and exacting, not just vocally but physically too. He’s pretty amazing to watch. And for you impressionists out there — if you watch him carefully, you’ll learn some deft techniques to improve your craft.
Now in his 70’s, Little is still performing and has begun adding new tour dates for 2009. You’ll find a schedule for his upcoming events at his official website: RichLittle.com.
In a bit of related trivia, Rich Little was involved in what has become #6 on the list of The Museum of Hoaxes’ Top April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time:
#6: Nixon for President
1992: National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.
Unfortunately, audio of this broadcast is not currently available. I contacted NPR and they replied that they are “working to transfer [their] entire archives to a digital format” and that it “will be available at some point, though we cannot commit to a firm date.”
As a substitute, NPR does have an audio interview with Rich Little from a 2000 broadcast of “Morning Edition”: Rich Little: A Presidential Handful.
And speaking of April Fools Day, it’s this Wednesday. You have been warned.