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Celebrity Impersonator

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"I like to inject some reality into my Cher impersonation. You'll never see me go...[clicks tongue and flips hair] because Cher doesn't do that."
Chad Michaels, legendary Cher impersonator
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There are those who look like famous people by coincidence, and there are those who make a living impersonating them, either by imitating their voice, or dressing up like them in their most iconic outfits. Ether way, Celebrity Impersonators make a name for themselves by acting like famous people (or at least the most popular depiction of them), making appearances at parties, in lookalike contests, or in porn. Sometimes the impersonators do such a good job at this that the original is told Your Costume Needs Work.

Popular targets are Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Cher. Bonus points if the impersonator is in drag.

A Sister Trope to Celebrity Resemblance (when characters say someone looks like one).

See also Body Double, who's expected to impersonate an assassination-prone ruler.

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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In L.A. Confidential, there's a prostitute service that specializes in them.
  • In Rat Race, there was an entire busload of Lucille Ball impersonators. Not all of them were women.
    • In a Deleted Scene, after Owen, who impersonated a bus driver and crashed it, escapes the angry mob of stranded Lucys, a bus full of Ricky Ricardo impersonators stops to pick them up and they head to the convention togheter.
  • Ocean's Twelve had an extended gag in which the character played by Julia Roberts impersonates... Julia Roberts.
  • Pulp Fiction and the waiting staff at Jack Rabbit Slims. "That's the Marilyn Monroe section. That's Mamie Van Doren. I don't see Jayne Mansfield, she must have the night off."
  • In Dave, the titular Dave is a dead ringer for the president and often takes side jobs impersonating the president to advertise local businesses. He gets recruited to be the president's body double, but continues to pretend to be the president when the real one suffers a stroke.
  • Moon over Parador: Basically the entire premise. A moderately successful stage actor is recruited to portray a recently deceased dictator of a Central American banana republic.
  • In Bubba Ho Tep one half of the cast is a infirm Elvis impersonator (the other a black-man who believes himself to be the real JFK) only the twist is he believes he really is Elvis who preformed a Trading Places-like switch with a normal impersonator.
  • Mister Lonely is a weird, somewhat deconstructionist take on the concept. The main protagonist is one of Michael Jackson, who falls in love with a Marilyn Monroe who's married to a Charlie Chaplin, who takes him to an island community filled entirely of impersonators, with the thread between all of them being that they're so engrossed in trying to claim the glory of their subjects that they've effectively discarded their real identities (on a base level, this means the characters are effectively just "Michael", "Marilyn", "Charlie", etc.). The film's deconstruction centrally comes around exploring "Existentially, what does it mean for someone to try and be like a celebrated figure?"
  • In Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous at one point Gracie Hart's bodyguard Sam Fuller dresses up like Tina Turner (Gracie dressing up like a stereotypical Las Vegas showgirl) to escape some armed men. They duck into a nightclub... which ends up being a Gay Bar where they were having a celebrity impersonation contest, with Sam and Gracie being pushed on stage to perform before several additional Tina Turner impersonators are sent out to join them!

    Literature 
  • The Truth: This is what happens to the fake Patrician after he's exposed; he signs up with the Guild of Actors and starts appearing at children's parties as a Lord Vetinari impersonator. The real Lord V suspects that being locked in a dungeon with an iron mask on might be preferable.
  • In Homecoming Matron Mez'Barris Armgo styles her new weapon master Malagdorl after her old, famous, patron Uthegentel by making him wear his trademark black armor and cutting his hair in the same style. Drow in the streets actually start to see him as 'Uthegentel come again', despite the original being dead for centuries. The matron's goal is to remind the people of Menzoberranzan of the old, gloryful days of House Barrison Del'Armgo.
  • Dancing Aztecs: Played for Laughs. Harlem gangster Bad Death Jonesburg demands a bunch of black celebrities at the funeral he's throwing, and when Xavier the undertaker is unable to find any on such short notice, he has all of his relatives and employees dress up as people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Pam Grier. Most of them don't look that much like the people their pretending to (at least not up close) but they narrowly manage to pull it off.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: NY:
    • In one episode, the killer commits suicide by re-enacting Marilyn Monroe's death.
    • Another episode involved a man who impersonated former tennis star John McEnroe and accidentally framed the real one for murder. Both were played by the real John McEnroe.
  • One episode of Nip/Tuck centers on two Marilyn Monroe impersonators (and rivals). Each goes to a respective brother to get a surgical leg up on the competition. After one nearly dies of medical complications, they're given the inspirational speech to work together to make even more tips. The episode ends with them both curled up in bed with the advising doctor. A Michael Jackson impersonator has also appeared on this show.
  • Maid Marian and Her Merry Men: Parodied when they discover there is a celebrity impersonator of Robin Hood, whom the Sheriff hires to frame Robin. That's right, professional celebrity impersonators in The Dung Ages. It was that kind of series.
  • The Mentalist had a corpse found by a Charlie Chaplin and a Marilyn Monroe impersonator who were walking home from their jobs; they had to stand there and be gawked at along with the crime scene until they were interviewed by the cops.
  • Roseanne: When asked to plan the wedding of her homosexual boss and his partner, Roseanne hired impersonators of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli to entertain at the reception.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch Court Scene with Cardinal Richelieu features a "professional Cardinal Richelieu impersonator".
  • Community - Abed got into trouble when he got heavily in hock to a celebrity impersonator agency run by a French Stewart impersonator (played by French Stewart) - his friends help pay off his debt by playing celebrities at a bar mitzvah.
  • One of Fran's cousins in The Nanny is a Drag Queen Cher impersonator, and was even called on to distract the press so that the real Cher could escape the media storm. However, Fran's cousin didn't really look like Cher since he was quite hilariously overweight.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race:
    • Several celebrity impersonators have been contestants on the show, including Chad Michaels (who performs as Cher and provides the page image), Venus D-Lite (Madonna), Coco Montrese (Janet Jackson), and Derrick Berry (Britney Spears). They're faced with the unique challenge of proving that there's more to their drag than just impersonation. Their success ranges from Chad being a finalist in Season 4 and winning All Stars 1, to Venus being the first queen eliminated in Season 3.
    • Besides the queens who are regularly impersonators, every season since the second has included a challenge called the Snatch Game (based on the 1960's game show Match Game) in which the queens perform their best celebrity impersonations mixed with improvisational comedy. It has become a beloved staple of the series, even brought back for the Foreign Remakes. The impersonations and performances range from absolutely spot-on and hysterical to completely flat and confusing.
    • Occasionally, the runway portion of the episode will have a "Night of a Thousand _____'s" theme, where the queens have to wear an iconic look from a celebrity. So far there's been RuPaul herself in season 6 (with Milk doing Ru in Werk Room boy drag as a look), Madonna in seasons 8 and 9 due to the infamous "Kimonogate" situation where multiple queens all wore a kimononote  and even the second time around there were still repeated outfitsnote , Lady Gaga also featured in season 9 (and she was a guest judge on the episode), and finally Drag Race judge and Ru's best friend Michelle Visage in season 12. Drag Race UK series 1 had its own Night of a Thousand Queen Elizabeth II runway and Canada's Drag Race season 1 went with their own homegrown diva Céline Dion.
    • Other celebrity impersonation challenges have also featured on the show with queens lip synching to pre-recorded or self-recorded songs: "HERstory of the World" on All Stars 2 featuring various historical figures, "Reality Stars: The Musical" on season 9 featuring "characters" from shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, "Divas Lip Sync Live" on All Stars 3 featuring various pop divas, "Cher: The Unauthorized Rusical" on season 10 featuring various eras of Cher, "Trump: The Rusical" on season 11 featuring various women in the life of then US President Donald Trump, and "Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical" on season 12 featuring various eras of Madonna. Drag Race Holland also had its own "Máxima: The Rusical" about current reigning queen consort Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.
  • In Game of Thrones, Tyrion and Varys visit a brothel in Mereen and one of the working girls is a ho-mage to Danaerys, complete with platinum blonde hair and a light blue dress (with the backside open of course), because "Everybody wants to fuck a queen."

     Web Original 
  • In Bleach (S) Abridged, Aizen pretends to be Josh Groban for the lulz, to the point where pretty much everyone in Soul Society thought he was Josh Groban despite knowing that Josh Groban is a human singer, and none of his Arrancar servants even recognize the name 'Aizen'. He even uses Kyoka Suigetsu to replace mentions of his name with 'Josh Groban'.
  • Michael Trapson is an unconventional example, as he's a legit Michael Jackson impersonator, but his usual gimmick is that he's MJ as a trap rapper.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Tick, there's Joseph Stalinov, who's an impersonator of Josef Stalin. Yes, that Stalin. He appeared in one episode, and most of the major cast thought he was real Stalin even after he explained he wasn't. Even those who personally knew Stalin believed that the impersonator was real. Probably a reference to Mikheil Gelovani, under Real Life.
  • In Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, Doof-1 tried to persuade Doof-2 to keep him as an impersonator for boring events.
  • In Back to the Future, Marty will have impersonators in the future. One hundred years after the series' "present" time.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: One episode had an Elvis Expy named Purvis Parker and the gang met one of his impersonators.
  • In The Simpsons episode "$pringfield", Bart turned his treehouse into a casino and tried to hire a Liza Minnelli impersonator. He found himself needing a replacement act because he found out the "impersonator" was the real Liza Minelli.
    • The "Itchy and Scratchy Land" theme park had a nostalgia-themed nightclub. Marge points out "The bartender even looks like John Travolta!" The bartender mutters "Yeah...looks like!"

    Real Life 
  • Actor Robert Sacchi has made his entire career on the fact that he's a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart. In "The Man With Bogart's Face", he effectively plays himself, a man who's a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart.
  • Female wrestler Shelly Martinez, better known as Ariel in WWE and Salinas in TNA, has done Bettie Page porn.
  • The vast majority of Scott Innes' voicework is impersonating Casey Kasem's higher-voiced roles, such as voicing modern adaptations of Shaggy and parodying Casey's Gatchaman work in Megas XLR.
  • Mike O'Meara has spent decades impersonating celebrities on the radio. Larry King, Regis Philben and Donald Trump are perennial favorites. He also does original voices. HI IT'S CHARLY!!
  • Rich Little mostly just does voice impressions, but for The Movie of The Late Shift, he played Johnny Carson.
  • The Universal Studios theme parks have celebrity look-alikes wander around occasionally as photo/autograph opportunities for the tourist. Why someone would want an autograph from a Marilyn Monroe or Charlie Chaplin impersonator...
  • Mikheil Gelovani managed to impersonate Josef Stalin so well (essentially Stalin's romantic vision of himself), that Stalin forbade him from doing any other role until his death. Arguably, he's more Stalin than Stalin. Quite a few rulers (especially dictators) would have a Body Double of themselves to make public appearances so that if an assassination attempt happened, they wouldn't be in any danger.
  • Fred Travalena was nicknamed "Mr. Everybody" for this reason.
  • John C. Sherwood is the reason so many people in the world can claim to have personally met Sherlock Holmes.
  • Maurice LaMarche based his voice-acting career on his skill at impressions, particularly his Orson Welles, as heard on The Critic and in the movie Ed Wood Even unrelated characters like Calculon and The Brain tend to be modeled on Welles' voice.
  • Frank Caliendo is ESPN's go to guy for voice impersonations when they can't get the actual celebrities to commentate on the issue of the day.
  • As mentioned earlier, many drag queens will perform as professional female celebrity impersonators, especially in Las Vegas where such shows are quite commonplace.
  • E'Casanova Evans' resemblance to Michael Jackson is so uncanny, he officially stood in as an on-camera double for the man himself twice: First for Back to the Future Part II in 1989, and Jackson's own music video for the single "Who Is It?" in 1993 (as Jackson was too busy touring to appear). Jackson, upon seeing Casanova for the first time, was put off by him, commenting, "It's like looking into a mirror."

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