While so many of us were likely introduced to the art of doing impressions in childhood as a way to get back at a schoolmate or a teacher by poking fun at them, master impressionists like Rick Michel treat this serious art form as a form of flattery and respect.
The 1970s saw this genre increase in popularity. As the larger-than-life personalities aged, it became a staple to see talented impressionists on television variety programs and late night shows as well as in Las Vegas casino acts. Rich Little, with whom Rick Michel has worked, is the name many consider synonymous with impressions.
To pick up on the subtle nuances needed to project yourself as another person is no easy feat and it’s no wonder that recognized students of acting and comedy are often talented impressionists. Kevin Spacey has stunned audiences by accurately mimicking Jack Lemmon, Christopher Walken, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Al Pacino and many more.
While all this can sound like name-dropping, it’s worth noting that impressionists have a long, impressive theatrical roster. Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy and Kevin Pollak are all examples of talented actors and comedians who have large repertoires of impressions they utilize.
So often impersonated themselves, many Rat Pack members were able to deliver convincing portrayals of other legends. Frank Sinatra has done James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart; Dean Martin tackled the likes of Cary Grant, Clark Gable and Pinky Tomlin; and Sammy Davis Jr. could incorporate impressions of Fred Astaire, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Louis Armstrong, and Dean Martin – yes, even a fellow Rat Packer – into his acts.
Saturday Night Live has come to be regarded as the best improvisation show in the history of television and impressions form its staple. Sinatra has been impersonated on the show by Phil Hartman and Joe Piscopo, with Piscopo also, along with Tom Hanks, having done Dean Martin. The likes of Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Tim Meadows and Garrett Morris have all represented Sammy on the program.
Rick Michel has become a student of human behavior, having been a master impressionist for more than 30 years, learning the accents, dialects and movements necessary to give respectful homage to hundreds. He has performed with legends and has had the honor of showing his talents to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Gerald Ford, Tony Curtis and Steve Allen.
Rick has performed his impressions in front of the actual people he mimics, such as,
Jerry Lewis, Rodney Dangerfield and the legendary icon comedian Bob Hope.
And he has enjoyed every moment.