Updated: Impressionist Rich Little Becomes U.S. Citizen

01.07.2010

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

Rich Little will no longer impersonate a U.S. citizen. On Friday, the Canadian impressionist takes part in a naturalization ceremony in U.S. District Court. The 71-year-old Little has lived in Las Vegas more than 10 years.

Update: 1.27.2010The Las Vegas Review Journal has coverage of Little’s naturalization ceremony, including an interview and photo of Little wearing a very patriotic tie for the event:

“America, I like the sound of the word,” Little said in a slow Wayne-like drawl. “It makes a man tight in the throat — makes him choked up. As I travel the world, I run into many Americans. I know they’re Americans because they’re wearing Italian shoes, eating Chinese food and drinking French wine.”

What is usually a solemn occasion in a federal courtroom turned into a comedic roast of sorts as Little’s longtime friends and colleagues Steve Rossi, Nelson Sardelli and Kathy Walker joked about his new life as a U.S. citizen.

“When I asked Rich what the first thing he was going to do when he was an American was, he said, ‘Collect unemployment,’ ” Rossi said.

Little also explained why he finally decided to get his U.S. citizenship:

“Well, I’ve been illegally in this country for 50 years. I just thought it was high time to become a citizen. It’s a lot easier to poke fun at the politicians when you’re an American. This country has been awfully good to me, and I can’t complain. It’s just a big thrill to become an American citizen.”

[Source: Immigration Daily]

Related post: 3.30.2009 — Rich Little on Tour


Happy Birthday, John Byner!

06.28.2009

Wishing a very happy 72nd birthday to John Byner, born today in 1938.

John’s a terrific comedian, impressionist and character voice actor who unfortunately doesn’t get recognized enough for his talents, and tends to be overshadowed by his contemporaries. But he’s had a long career as a comedian and TV actor. He’s also voiced characters in a number of animated cartoons such as The Angry Beavers, Duckman, Garfield and Friends, and Swat Kats. And in my humble opinion, his most noteworthy performances in animation were the voices of Gurgi and Doli in Disney’s 1985 animated feature The Black Cauldron, and both the title characters in The Ant and the Aardvark series of theatrical shorts produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises between 1969-71. The latter featured John’s impressions of crooner/TV and film star Dean Martin and comedian Jackie Mason as the respective voices of the Ant and the Aardvark.

Several of John’s TV appearances and stand-up routines are available via the YouTube Channel DogTownDon. And you can learn more about John’s biography and career on his official site JohnByner.com (and please send him birthday greetings via email–I’m sure it would make his day).


Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show

06.22.2009

While actor/comedian Kevin Pollak has minimal voice-over work to his credit, his vocal skills as an impressionist make me wish he were given more opportunities for voice acting. According to IMDb.com, his voice credits include Dr. Dolittle 2, an obscure video game, and “voice characterizations” in the 1985 Star Wars “classic” spinoff Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, which is likely suspect since Kevin didn’t start his acting career until the late 80’s.

Voice actor Maurice LaMarche (Pinky & The Brain, Futurama) credits Kevin as being the premiere impressionist of William Shatner, and after watching clips of Kevin imitating Shatner in his stand-up act (such as this vintage bit, which also includes impressions of Robin Williams, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, and Dudley Moore) I’m inclined to agree. (Also, if Moe says it, I believe him.)

In April 2009, Kevin started his own internet talk show — Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show which streams live on the web every Sunday at 5:00 PM (PST). Previous guests include Adam Corolla, Dana Carvey, and LeVar Burton. NPR’s Weekend Edition recently interviewed Kevin about the show as well.

Visit Kevin’s official site — KevinPollak.net — for other details, such as his comedy tour schedule and recently-released new live comedy CD, “A Little Off The Top.” He also has an official YouTube Channel, where I would particularly recommend watching an informal “vlog” from a hotel room with him doing impressions of Shatner and Christopher Walken.


Happy Birthday, Maurice LaMarche!

03.30.2009

Wishing a very happy birthday to voice actor and impressionist Maurice LaMarche, born today in 1958.

The Canadian-born actor spent his early years in entertainment as a stand-up comedian and got his “big break” in animation voice-overs as the voice of Chief Quimby on Inspector Gadget. He has since voiced many popular animated characters in The Real Ghostbusters, Tiny Toon Adventures, The Critic, Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain, and Futurama.

If you’re a Facebook.com member, join the group “The Genius of Moe: Fans of Maurice LaMarche” to wish Maurice birthday greetings.

Previous news: Maurice LaMarche Declares 3.22.09 “International Talk Like William Shatner Day”

Also celebrating birthdays today: John Astin, Ian Zeiring, Juliet Landau, Megumi Hayashibara, Ayako Kawasumi, and Marlowe Gardiner-Heslin.


Rich Little on Tour

03.30.2009

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.


Frank Caliendo’s TV Series Cancelled

03.12.2009

While some might argue Frank Caliendo doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a “voice actor” (since he’s done minimal actual voiceover work), there’s no denying he’s a talented comedian and a highly skilled mimic (both physically and vocally), which has led him to become one of America’s most popular impressionists/impersonators and even landed him his own TV show, Frank TV.

And despite Frank TV’s good ratings, the cost of production outweighing ad revenue caused TBS and Caliendo to decide mutually to end the series after the second season ended.

In an interview with The St. Joe News [link: StJoeNews.net] Caliendo says, “I have nothing but good things to say about TBS. They made me a pretty famous name — or an infamous name — however you want to look at it. But there was just so much me, me, me, me, me.” Caliendo adds, “I was very proud of the show and the network loved it, but now is the time to sit back and develop some new things.”

But Caliendo needn’t worry about “sitting back.” His comedy tour is booked throughout 2009 [link: FrankCaliendo.com], and he just signed a two-year deal to continue his role on NFL Fox Sunday. There’s also a high probability he’ll be returning for the MadTV series finale in May 2009.

[Sources: TVSeriesFinale.com, TVSquad.com, BroadcastingCable.com]