Monday, April 23, 2007

David Letterman Gets More Laughs in Three Minutes Than Rich Little Got in His Whole Act

I turned on the Correspondent's Dinner late, and it took exactly ten seconds for Rich Little to say something I found offensive. He was imitating Ronald Reagan, and said in the war on poverty, "the poor lost." Ho ho ho... Funny stuff. The half of the crowd most responsible for the misery of the poor found it hilarious; the other half sat, stunned.

I left the room. I came back a few minutes later and Rich Little was
actually putting in joke teeth to do President Carter. I checked the calendar to make sure it was 2007. Since it was, I can only assume that Mickey Rooney had a yard sale. I turned the TV off.

Apparently, I missed the best part, before Little's Monologue of Mass Destruction.


gina said...

LOL! Oh Mike, I was flipping the channels and landed on the Correspondent's Dinner coverage right when Rich Little was doing his schtick and I had exactly the same reaction - Rich Little??? He's alive? And people still think he's funny??

Luckily, I didn't stay on that channel for long enough to hear what the hell he was saying. I grabbed that remote as soon he launched into what I think was his Cheny impersonation. *shudder*

norm said...

But you have to admit, Little was to Nixon impressions what Dana Carvey was to Bush Sr. impersonations.
And, Mike...what's the difference between an impression and an impersonation?
(sorry about all these posts, but I'm having a slow work day)

Michael Markowitz said...

We love active participation! :-)

My understanding was always that impression was a higher form than impersonation. (Just as comedians are higher than comics) Impersonation is, as I always took it, the same as imitation. It can be uncanny, but it's fairly surface and technical.

Kevin Pollack's amazing Peter Falk comes to mind. Sounds just like him, but that's it. Then there's Joe Piscopo's Andy Rooney, which sounds nothing like Andy Rooney, captures none of his cadence, none of his vocal tics, none of his writing trademarks, yet somehow reminds people a little of him, in a burlesque sort of way. So I suppose that's an impersonation.

Impression is when someone inhabits the entire persona of the character, doing it from the inside out. It can be dead-on, as Rich Little used to do with Carson, or as David Frye used to do with Nixon, or (my personal favorite) Dave Thomas used to do with Bob Hope... (Woody Allen has freely admitted that in most of his earlier movies he's imitating Bob Hope; I'd argue he's doing a great impression.)

Or it can have no impersonation component at all. I mean, Phil Hartman's Bill Clinton or Tim Meadows' O.J. or Dan Aykroyd's Jimmy Carter wouldn't have won them any ribbons at an Impersonator's contest, but each was such a -- I don't know, is the word "compelling" or "evocative" or what?

Will Ferrell's GWB was such a complete character he was 1000 times more likable than the real guy (like Meadows' O.J.). It's why no one's been able to fill that part since. It's not about the voice and mannerisms, it's the character.

Dana Carvey didn't really imitate GHWB that well -- you wouldn't mistake one for the other on the phone, the way you might Jay Mohr for Christopher Walken -- but he "got" the guy. It's why his other impressions are iffy.

Somewhere in between and all around and unclassifiable is Jim Carrey. Back in his standup days he did the most incredible imitations/impersonations/ impressions I've ever seen. He would completely transform himself into Clint Eastwood or Henry Fonda or whoever... physically, vocally, facially... it was disturbing as well as astounding.

Too long an answer? As usual... :-)

RoloTomasi said...

Sorry, I didn't get what was so funny about "#1 Bush walking" ?????


Michael Markowitz said...

Look closer... The Leader of the Free World hocks up a big ball of spit