What is it we all like about impressions?

When Jamie Costa’s uncanny performance as Robin Williams in a short film went viral, it put the venerable and ever-evolving art of mimicry and impression back under the spotlight. David Barnett reports

Thursday 13 January 2022 21:30
<p>When is acting just an impression... and is it ever funny? </p>

When is acting just an impression... and is it ever funny?

What self-respecting child of the 1970s can truly say that they never once stood, at a family gathering or holiday camp talent show, with a wide-eyed, nonplussed expression, knock-knees, and uttered in a slightly camp voice the immortal words: “Oooh, Betty, the cat done a whoopsie on the carpet”?

Michael Crawford’s (with hindsight) worryingly childlike Frank Spencer, from the TV comedy series Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em, was ripe for “taking off” as my mother would ’ave it. His gormless expression was easy to ape, everyone could do his voice, and he had a simple catchphrase.

Except, according to the website TV Tropes, Frank Spencer never said either “Ooh, Betty” nor even alluded to the cat’s indoor toilet habits. What we were all doing as kids was an impression of an impression of Frank Spencer.

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