Do you feel like you have what it takes to become a famous voice impersonator? Well if imitating the voices and gestures of celebrities comes easy, you just might. That’s right. You don’t even have to look or dress like the person you are mimicking.
But, wait, it’s not all about low brow comedy and hard-hitting political satire. Voice impersonation has grown into a vital art form. So much so that it’s become a skill that could change your life as a voice actor.
Although there’s a bit more to it. So, please sit back, and let’s go through what it takes to become one of the best voice impersonators in the industry.
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
Famous Voice Impersonators: It’s Uncanny
Why is great voice impersonation so crucial in this age? After all, if current technology could resurrect Tupac in front of a live audience in Coachella, it can surely do the same with celebrity voices, right? Well, it depends on a lot of things.
CGI (computer-generated imagery) has made it next to impossible for audiences to distinguish between real or fake. However, it’s not as easy to fool the human ear. Granted, there is voice-altering software that can get pretty close. But these programs can’t mimic the warmness or emotional range of a real human voice.
Therefore, film producers will and should continue to depend on voice impressionists to create a genuine connection with the audience.
Let’s have a look at some of the best voice impersonators in the business:
Rich Little: Versatile Voice Impersonator
Also known as the man of a thousand voices, and who could argue given Rich Little’s impressive 57-year career. He started out performing impersonations of famous Canadian political figures such as Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. He later moved on to both stage and on-screen impersonation roles.
His repertoire consists mainly of classic pop-cultural figures such as John Wayne, Johnny Carson, and Frank Sinatra. You might have heard him voice Richard Nixon in Futurama, the movie.
Jay is an actor, stand-up comedian, and one of the most hilarious voice impersonators in the world. His most notable work is the various roles he played on SNL (Saturday Night Live).
Such roles include Jay Z, former president Barrack Obama, Lil Wayne, and many more.
Jim is one of the few voice impersonators to have indeed hit the mark. He looks nothing like George W Bush, Bill Clinton, or General David Petraeus, but it’s impossible to tell his imitations from the real deal. Jim’s famous voice impersonations have featured in various animated productions and even videogames such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
Josh Robert Thompson
This actor/comedian is best known for his work at the Howard Stern show. However, his vocal range is so impressive that his Morgan Freeman impression is as spot-on as his De Niro, Schwarzenegger, or Donald Trump impressions.
Thompson’s impressions have also featured on various Fox network animated shows. Such shows include Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show.
Why Hire A Voice Impersonator
As mentioned, voice replication technology just doesn’t cut it. You can still use voice-altering apps and get passable imitations. But, your audience will tell, and this will certainly not amuse them. There goes all your ratings and credibility.
Here’s how a believable voice impersonator adds to your production:
This is simply the ability for audio-visual productions to appear as real and almost factual. For instance, Abraham Lincoln left this plane of existence over a century ago. However, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in Lincoln (2012) was so uncanny that it looked like the real Lincoln was peering the veil.
That’s verisimilitude in action. A talented voice impersonator can bring the same quality to animated shows, podcasts, and other productions.
Your budget and influence
To date, we’ve only seen actual celebrities voice their own characters in one animated show. That show is Fox’s “The Simpsons.”
Why is it so? Because this powerful network has the budget and industry clout to convince even Queen Elizabeth II to voice her character on the show.
Very few people have that sort of influence. The next best thing is hiring a voice impersonator. Plus, it won’t cost you anywhere near as much as hiring the Queen of England.
Just in case you need it, here’s an article on text to voice software.
It’s hard to reach famous people.
Famous voice actors are becoming more and more popular both in films and commercials. We all lead such busy lives, just imagine how many things famous people have to accomplish in a day. Having a five-minute conversation with a political figure, an A-list actor, or captains of industry is hard enough. Now, imagine cramming them in a studio booth and having them sit through take after re-take.
It sounds like a nightmare that will significantly affect your production schedule. Hiring a voice impersonator will spare you these headaches.
The Legality of Voice Impersonation
Here’s a fan fact, Stephen Hawking owned the copyright to his computer-generated voice. And why not? After all, he lost his ability to speak. That robotic growl was the only way he could engage with the world and expand our understanding of the cosmos.
A voice is something that bridges our physical shortcomings so that we can reach out to the world. A celebrity’s voice also lends a lot of credibility to a project, whether it’s an audio or a video ad. Just think of how assured you’d feel about buying a house after Tom Hanks said, “it’s worth every penny!”
We hear a lot of celebrity impressions in various productions, which begs the following question;
Is celebrity voice impression legal?
Well, it depends on how the voice is used.
You’re free to use voice impressions as long as you don’t convince the public that it’s actually the real character’s voice. This could create a false perception and unfair commercial gains.
Remember that whomever you’re imitating has worked hard to gain their current level of credibility. It’s simply unethical for a media person to violate the very laws that bring order to the entire industry.
Are there any exemptions to this law?
The good thing about this law is that its implementation varies across various legal jurisdictions. It depends on how “free” the freedom of speech is in a particular country.
Take a cautious approach.
The best approach is to consult a lawyer before using a voice impersonation in your production. US laws allow celebrity impersonations for comedic effect. However, the rules are quite loose and complicated when it comes to adverts.
A cautious approach will save you a lot of time and money wasted in huge legal suits.
So You Want To Be A Voice Impressionist?
Voice impersonation may appear to be a natural gift. However, it’s something you can learn and perfect on with a little practice.
If you want a detailed set of guidelines, then you’ll love this gem: How to Do Voice Impressions: The Skill to Uncanny Vocal Mimicry.
If you’re looking for an overview of what it takes to become the best voice impressionist, read on:
Step 1: Open up your ears.
First, compile a playlist of the characters you wish to imitate. Then listen while compiling notes on how they annunciate every word. Take note of the following features of their speech;
Try to place their accent to a specific geographical location. Lock in on the specific dialect from that region and listen to how other people of that region speak.
Take note of the distinguishing aspects of the speaker’s accent. For instance, the Spanish “lisp,” how Germans roll their “R’s” or how the French neglect every “H”.
What is A – “ah” to you may be “ay” to them. The same applies to every other vowel. Take note of the subtle differences and practice until you can make a perfect impression.
Take note of where the speaker puts emphasis
Tone and inflection
Is the speaker soft-spoken or gruff? Does there speak show some tonal inflection? Or is it a flat constant monotone? Keep track of all the rises and falls reflected in the tonal nature of their voice.
How old do they sound? How would you describe their voice? Is it zany, commanding, or melancholic?
Step 2: Do your best imitation
Now that you’ve dissected the celebrity’s voice, it’s time to try your best imitation. But first, you need to add a few more notes to your script. You can do so by highlighting every vowel and syllable that should sound different from your normal speech.
You’ll probably fail to sound convincing at first, but some practice and a little more practice will get you there.
Keep track of your tone and try your best to match it to the celebrity’s pitch. And, most importantly, a few breaks in-between your practice sessions will prevent you from straining your vocal cords.
Step 3: Record it!
The truth is no one likes the sound of their own recorded voice. We just don’t sound as clear and composed as we think we do. Sadly, that’s how the world perceives your voice.
Again, consistent practice keeps bad voice impersonation at bay.
Step 4: Seek feedback.
Seeking other people’s opinions on your performance is the only way to know if you’re ready. Practicing your impression in front of your friends or playing your recordings is the easiest way of getting some impactful feedback. Take note of their observations and use them to improve your performance.
Voice Impersonators for Hire
Professional impersonators make it look so easy. But, as you can see, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to bring out truly believable celebrity voices. It makes sense to hire a professional who has the skill and experience to hit the mark.
What to look for in Voice Impersonators:
- A rich and diverse portfolio of celebrity voice impersonations.
- A ready-for-action attitude. The impersonator should be ready to do the job with little to no preparation.
- The impersonator should also be able to portray a range of emotions even as they imitate a celebrity.
- A team player that works well with others.
- The ability to sing while imitating is a handy bonus.
Famous voice impersonations may be what you need to make your production more marketable. Impersonation is a learnable skill and not purely based on talent. Even with that, you still need a lot of research and practice to hit the desired mark. That shouldn’t worry you. You can always hire a professional voice impersonator. Remember to stay within the law.