Do you want to know what I miss? Impressionists.
When I was growing up, Frank Gorshin, David Frye, and Rich Little entertained us by combining humorous situations with the voices of well-known celebrities. Those of us who grew up way back when will never forget hearing the voices of Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, William F. Buckley (pause) Jr., and of course Walter Brennan in unlikely combinations and outrageous scenarios.
Today we have some comedians who do an impression or two, thanks to shows like Saturday Night Live, but no one like David Frye who could do a whole album populated with dozens of characters, all of whom were recognizable. They didn’t have to be perfect impersonations—just recognizable impressions, which made it fun, as opposed to disrespectful.
Of course, I have to admit that we no longer have personalities with distinctive voices (or faces). All the girls on television look like they’ve been recycled from some female star in the 1960’s. All the guys look alike, if you divide them up into about six different groups. Voices? Does anyone know or care what a Kardashian sounds like? The only decent voices to impersonate are the members of Monty Python, Ian McKellan, or Alan Rickman—all of whom are British. And, to his fans, I’m sorry, but Chuck Norris does not have a truly distinctive voice; Burgess Meredith had a distinctive voice.
The best American voice we can hope to parody today is James Earl Jones. It’s a great voice, but hard to build a drama with one voice, no matter how distinctive.
So, here’s to the impressionists, whose time has come and gone—and all that laughter with them.