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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, while competing on RuPaul's Drag Race

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. Either 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 look-alike 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, whose job is to impersonate an assassination-prone ruler.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Army of the Dead: a Liberace impersonator appears in the opening credits sequence as Las Vegas gets overrun by zombies. There's also an Elvis Impersonator among the zombified people.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ginger and Fred: Amelia and Pippo were dancers back in the day, decades ago, when they had an act imitating Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. They get called out of retirement for a nostalgia TV special that has a bunch of other celebrity impersonators, including a Clark Gable and a Woody Allen.
  • In L.A. Confidential, there's a prostitute service that specializes in them.
  • 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!
  • 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?"
  • 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 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.
  • Opportunity Knocks: Eddie impersonates then-President George H. W. Bush in a Wrigley Field restroom to fool some executives that Bush and the other users love using air dryers. Since the ones being fooled were in stalls and couldn't see outside them effectively, all that was needed was the right voice.
  • 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."
  • Italian comedy Paparazzi (1998) is a sort of satire of the star system, and as such has cameos from many real celebrities but also a scene where several impersonators of actors and sportsmen are recruited for a party. There's also the classic Elvis Impersonator though he gets dismissed for obviously not being a present-day celebrity. Also the Schumacher look-alike can't drive, while the Michael Jackson impersonator shows off his dance moves in another scene and could almost pass for the real MJ... until he talks, anyway.
  • The Compleat Al: Outside of the Greek Theater, a vendor offers photos with a "Weird Al" Yankovic impersonator for $2 each. When the real Al walks by, the vendor shoves him in the impersonator's place, then starts offering bystanders photos with Al for $5 each.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blue Bloods has Danny running into who he thinks is singer Jimmy Buffett at a bar and buys him a big meal. The next morning, while complaining about the bill, Danny learns Buffett was doing a concert in Texas the previous night and he got taken by Dickie Delaney, who's been impersonating Buffett for years. The real Buffett arrives and it turns out he and Dickie are friends with Buffett not minding the guy getting a little fun out of the mix-up, but warning Dickie to take it easy on tricking folks into free meals and such.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • On The Love Boat, Julie has a pair of promoter friends put together a big "celebrity cruise," promising stars like Za Za Gabor and others. It's only when the ship sails they realize they made a mistake and booked all those stars on a completely different cruise. They decide the only thing to do is revive an old nightclub act and pose as those stars at various parts of the ship. Julie sees through it fast, warning them about this. Before they can do anything, Stubbing gets a telegram on the real stars on the other ship and is naturally irate. Julie is set to come clean to the passengers but the promoters decide to just do a more blatant version of the act with the audience loving their various impressions more than a real celebrity gathering to save Julie's job.
  • 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.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch Court Scene with Cardinal Richelieu features a "professional Cardinal Richelieu impersonator".
  • 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.
  • New Tricks: In "The Fame Game", the boys’ investigations take them to a lookalike agency, where their top two acts were found dead in an apparent double suicide 13 years ago.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Season 5 contestant Jade Jolie didn't win her season's Snatch Game, but her Taylor Swift impersonation was considered spot-on by the judges and viewers, to the point that she has since started regularly impersonating Swift in her drag act back home
    • 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's runway, Canada's Drag Race season 1 went with their own homegrown diva Céline Dion, and All Stars 7 had a runway dedicated to Dolly Parton.
    • 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 (with guest star Ginger Minj from Season 7 as Trump himself), 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.

    Video Games 
  • Mario Party 3: The Millenium Star is a sentient, legendary star that only shines once every 1000 years. But it's not the one who's guiding you in the game, that one is an impostor. When he confesses this and flees away, the real Millenium Star appears, having been within Tumble's body and observed the progress and achievements of the playable characters.

     Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Back to the Future, Marty will have impersonators in the future. One hundred years after the series' "present" time.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.

    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 is anyone's guess, but it's all part of the fun.
  • 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.
  • French voice actor/imitator Yves Lecoq made his fame with his perfect imitation of the voice of French President Jacques Chirac, including voicing his puppet in Les Guignols de l'Info.
  • 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."
  • From around 2003-2006, a man named Anthony Mendez made his living impersonating Mike Portnoy, the drummer from Dream Theater. However, the way he made his living was rather... unique. He would convince random gay men that he was Portnoy, go back to their place for sex, and then rob them blind before they woke up the next morning. Though he did look vaguely similar to Portnoy, what really sold people on his act was that he knew practically everything about Portnoy and Dream Theater, more than even the most obsessed fan of the band would reasonably know. However, he wasn't a very good drummer, so anyone who heard him play pretty much instantly caught on to the fact that he was an imposter. Tales From the Internet covers his exploits in more detail here.
  • American reenactor Mark Schneider looks a lot like Napoléon Bonaparte and has played him in many reenactments of battles from The Napoleonic Wars on their anniversary dates. He's even appeared as the Emperor in a film, The Emperor of Paris.