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Subtle, Blizz.

"Animation is built on plagiarism! If it weren't for someone plagiarizing The Honeymooners, we wouldn't have The Flintstones. If someone hadn't ripped off Sergeant Bilko, there'd be no Top Cat. Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney."
Roger Myers, The Simpsons
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Sometimes a character's entire shtick will be that he or she is a thinly disguised imitation of some celebrity somewhere. The more blatant examples will often have a parody of that celebrity's name. This can be done for various reasons, such as to serve as a homage and/or parody, to make a point using the character, or simply because the writers think that it would be cool. Though some consider it done because the writers are out of ideas. Many creators and viewers alike do not like it because it tends to smack of unoriginality and destroys the conceit that the work's universe is entirely fictional (though, of course, if the work is outright going for realism, it's quite appropriate). However, this does have the side effect of making the work an Unintentional Period Piece for the period of the work's creation, as later audiences, to varying degrees of success, can see through the "thinly disguised" part of the parody and clearly determine that the work was made during the height of the target's popularity.

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The most common impressions to hear in cartoons are Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone for tough-guy characters, Peter Lorre or Vincent Price for creepy characters, R. Lee Ermey for Drill Sergeant Nasties, Maurice Chevalier for a song and dance man or stock French Funny Foreigner character, Paul Lynde for Camp Gay characters, Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee for vampires, Boris Karloff for Frankenstein's monster, Sean Connery or Don Adams for secret agents, Donald Pleasance or Alan Rickman for an action villain, Ed Wynn for assorted silly characters, John Wayne or Clint Eastwood for cowboys, Paul Hogan for Australians, Howard Cosell or John Madden for sports announcers, Joe Pesci or Ray Liotta for mobsters, and Mae West for vamps. As for more general examples, heavy-metal rocker characters will be given a Metal Scream of the sort perfected by the likes of Robert Plant, Steven Tyler, and Rob Halford. "Stoner" characters will tend to be based on either the Sean Penn character ("Spicoli") in Fast Times at Ridgemont High or the Dennis Hopper character in Apocalypse Now. Anyone doing a stock pirate character ("Ahrrr, matey!") is paying tribute to Robert Newton's performance as Long John Silver in Disney's Treasure Island (1950). The witch stereotype is based on The Wicked Witch of the West.

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May double as a Parental Bonus, when it is mostly aimed at kids.

If it's a fictional character that's being imitated, then it's an Expy or Captain Ersatz. The trope does not apply in the case of adaptations of live-action source materials, where the character designs are obliged to be based on the real actors. When the creators actively deny that the character was meant to be caricature of the person, see Denied Parody.

Compare Ink-Suit Actor, where a celebrity voices an animated caricature of themself. Comic-Book Fantasy Casting is a much milder version of this, where a real actor or other celebrity is used as a guide for a character's appearance but with no attempt to caricature their persona. Write Who You Know is for where a character is based on somebody who the creator personally knows, but not necessarily a celebrity. If the famous personality is an historical character that is already dead, especially it's from centuries ago, then it's No Historical Figures Were Harmed.

Note that some character voices, most notably those reminiscent of Peter Lorre and of John Wayne, are by now fourth-generation copies that have more to do with earlier impressions than with the original actors' voices. There may also be some overlap with the "Weird Al" Effect if the caricature is more familiar to younger audiences than the actual celebrity.

See also Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, No Communities Were Harmed, and Adam Westing. See Bland-Name Product for the equivalent treatment of a product (or possibly a business entity) rather than a person, potentially applying just as much detail to the parody.

Tuckerization is the inverse.


Subtropes:

Examples:

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    Art 
  • The Sistine Chapel's altar painting, The Last Judgement:
    • Saint Peter is drawn to resemble Pope Pius III, who commissioned the painting. This is in line with the Catholic idea that Peter was the first Pope, making Pope Pius III his direct successor.
    • King Minos, the demonic judge of Hell, is based on one of the Pope's officials who vocally complained about Michelangelo's use of nudity in his portraits.

    Asian Animation 
  • Simple Samosa features a few one-off characters who are thinly-veiled references to real-life celebrities.
    • Melon Musk, a musk melon who loves space travel and electric cars. (Elon Musk.)
    • A rapper named Toast Malone. (Post Malone.)
    • A sugar cube named Suga who performs with his band Ghee-TS at the Bhelboard Awards. (Suga from BTS.)

    Audio Play 
  • Cecilia Pollard, who appears in the Big Finish Gallifrey audio drama A Blind Eye, is pretty clearly Unity Mitford. (Which possibly makes her sister Charley from the Eighth Doctor series Jessica.)
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • The episode "Max Warp" unapologetically gives the finger to Top Gear, including space caricatures of Clarkson, Hammond and May.
    • "Storm Warning" has a character named Lord Tamworth, who is shown to be the Air Minister under Ramsay MacDonald and the motive force behind the creation of R-101. He is an obvious stand in for Christopher Thompson, First Baron Thompson, who was the actual Air Minister under MacDonald and was the chief advocate for creating the Imperial Airship System, which included R-101. He also died in R-101's crash during her maiden voyage.
    • Invoked in "Fanfare for the Common Men"; the titular Common Men, Mark Carvill, James O'Meara and Corky Goldsmith are very blatantly based on John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr respectively. The twist is that the Doctor notices this, and realises someone is trying to replace The Beatles' place in history.

    Comedy 
  • Robin Williams on his stand-up comedy album Reality, What A Concept plays a character named Reverend Earnest Angry, who is a parody of real-life televangelist Ernest Angley, who in his routine promotes the religion of Comedy.

    Comic Strips 
  • Pogo: Many of the Funny Animal characters are obvious caricatures of politicians, e.g. Simple J. Malarkey = Sen. Joseph McCarthy. (This was heavily Lampshaded in the MAD parody "Gopo Gossum.")
  • Doonesbury loves this:
    • Particularly Uncle Duke, who is just Hunter S. Thompson. Lampshaded when Duke reads that Hunter S. Thompson has committed suicide and his head explodes, repeatedly. He's got no idea why.
    • Another Doonesbury example is the late Lacey Davenport, a sweetly aristocratic liberal Republican who was modeled on real life New Jersey representative Millicent Fenwick.
  • Bloom County had a story arc about the cast hosting a concert. While most of the musicians were real-life people and bands (Van Halen, The Police, Culture Club, etc.), there was also "Tess Turbo and the Blackheads", an obvious take on "Joan Jett and the Blackhearts"
  • Jerk Simpkins from the Hsu and Chan comic, Under Fire, is an obvious parody of anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson.
  • In Francesco Marchilano's first Judge Parker story, a trucker is on the phone to Dahlia After Dark, a radio advice show. On his blog, Ces goes into further detail about Dahlia, including that she's the author of a series of self-help books and has a spin-off show called Ladies' Night. Asked in the comments if this was anything like Love Songs with Delilah (which has a series of self-help books and a spin-off called Friday Nite Girls), Ces replied "Oh, no, no, no. (Wink. Wink wink. Wink wink wink wink wink wink eye spasm.)"

    Fan Works 
  • Codex Equus:
    • Colton Marentino, the brutish movie director who abused famed actress Helga Greywing and essentially kept her prisoner in her own trailer, is a nastier version of Quentin Tarantino. He eventually gets his comeuppance when Polistes "kidnaps" Helga and Helga eventually "escapes" (after doing rehearsals for it) to expose his crimes.
    • A canonized Codexverse quote made by the Fourth-Age Shadow Sentinel/Captain Umbra Wing takes a potshot at one Gilded Screen, who's based on Zack Snyder, known for both making Darker and Edgier films and his own cynical views on superheroes in general (such as Batman using guns).
    • Blue Suede Heartstrings, the Alicorn god of Music, Humility, Performance, and Love, is based on Elvis Presley, who's often called "The King of Rock and Roll", and is one of the most recognized musicians and cultural icons in history. He even has many of Elvis' traits and mannerisms, such as his humility, his Big Eater tendencies, his preference for pompadours, and his religious beliefs... except here, he's definitely alive and healthy, not to mention that he's an Alicorn god.
    • Black Domino, a famous Zebra musician from the early parts of the Second Age, is based on Fats Domino, being that like him, he's mentioned as being one of the first pioneers of the Rock and Roll genre, and has "Fats Domino" as his stage name. And like his character inspiration, Black Domino was also idolized by Blue Suede Heartstrings, who is based on Elvis Presley, with Blue himself believing that Black Domino sings "better" than him and hates how much of the praise Black Domino deserved went to him instead.
    • A canonized Codexverse drabble mentions a Second-Age Bitish musician, Colton John, who is based on Elton John. In one incident, Blue Suede Heartstrings played a well-received live piano cover of Colton John's "Tiny Dancer" for a concert, with an accompanying ballet performance by his godson, Prince Shamrock. According to one of the Codex writers, she wrote the drabble because she loved "Tiny Dancer" (as well as its cover by Florence + the Machine).
    • Another canonized Codexverse drabble mentions a tailor and store owner named Measured Sleeve, who was responsible for dressing Blue Suede Heartstrings in his iconic outfits throughout the latter's entire music career. Measured Sleeve is based on Bernard Lansky, who served as Elvis Presley's tailor up until the latter's death. However, since the circumstances have changed in the Codexverse, it is Blue Suede Heartstrings who eventually outlives his tailor after he Ascends to godhood, not the other way around.
    • Prince Healing Song, the Alicorn god of Music, Potential, Teaching, and Psionics, is based on blind Canadian jazz/blues musician Jeff Healey. Like Healey, he was born in Caneighda (the Second-Age equivalent of Canada), adopted by loving parents, and blinded during infancy when doctors surgically removed his eyes to prevent further infection by a rare ocular cancer. And like Healey, he proved himself to be a musical prodigy by developing a rather unorthodox way of playing the guitar from an early age (though he has played the trumpet at one point), and has played both blues and jazz music. He even has "Healey" as a nickname. However, the difference here is he's friends with Blue Suede Heartstrings (who is essentially the divine equivalent of Elvis Presley in the Codexverse) and he himself managed to Ascend to godhood on his deathbed, saving him from being taken by cancer like Healey was.
      • On a related note, one of Healing Song's bands, the Healing String Groove Band, is based on the Jeff Healey Band, while his bandmates Steel String and Tempo Groove are based on Jeff Healey's bandmates, bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen, respectively.
    • Prince Healing Song's entry mentions a Hoofstep Sways, whom he filmed with for a movie called Road House. Hoofstep Sways is based on Patrick Swayze, who filmed Road House together with the Jeff Healey Band, whose members provided a huge portion of the movie's soundtrack.
    • Moon Ray Vaughoof of the Trimortidae is essentially a ponified version of Stevie Ray Vaughan, with Moon Ray's life and accomplishments being more or less a parallel to the latter. Unlike Stevie Ray, however, Moon Ray would become a Angel of Death after dying in a helicopter crash, then later Ascended as the Alicorn god of Death, Temperance, Water, and Forgiveness after forgiving everyone who harmed him in life. He also went through a very long process of Character Development that saw him letting go of his past and overcoming all his other flaws and traumas, which leads to him manifesting his long-repressed domain of Prophecy and becoming a Prince. A few of his songs, both original and covered (like "Look at Little Sister" and "Life Without You"), were adapted in to the Codexverse.
      • Moon Ray's band, Double Trouble, is based on... Stevie Ray's band Double Trouble. Specifically, Double Trouble's band members Fret Pick (bassist), Whipper Snare (drummer), and Key Tap (keyboardist) are based on Tommy Shannon (bassist), Chris Layton (drummer), and Reese Wynans (keyboardist).
      • Moon Ray's entry also mentions several other individuals based on real-life celebrities - Zebra musicians Smooth Neck, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, River Rush, and Double Helix are based on Albert King, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, and Jimi Hendrix, respectively, the latter whom Stevie Ray Vaughan idolized. Ham Hock is based on Bill Ham, ZZ Top's manager, Sunny Field Vaughoof is based on Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie Ray's older brother, and Sunshine Cream is based on Eric Clapton.
    • Rhiannon's entry mentions a Fourth-Age Grittish band named "Fleethoof Mac". For bonus points, one of their songs is named "Rhiannon", which in the Codexverse is an In-Universe Alternative Character Interpretation of Rhiannon as a mysterious, seductive, elusive, and mystical female figure. Rhiannon herself found it "pretty amusing".
    • "Colonel" Hollow Note is based on "Colonel" Tom Parker, the manager of Elvis Presley who ruthlessly exploited his client throughout the latter's entire career. Blue Suede Heartstrings, who is based on Elvis, managed to break free of his manager's control partially thanks to the manipulations of his older twin brother, Bossa Nova, but it's noted in both entries and drabbles/quotes that the consequences of his manager's behavior has led to Blue Suede suffering from lingering trauma long after Hollow Note's death.
    • Venerable Grace Heartstrings is based on Priscilla Ann Presley, Elvis Presley's wife who is both an actress and business magnate who turned her husband's estate, Graceland, into a tourist attraction. Though here in the Codexverse, due to things turning out differently, she's portrayed as Blue Suede's first wife, as Blue Suede would end up courting both male and female partners after becoming an Alicorn god.
    • Stellar Dreamer is based on Steven Spielberg, a renowned American film director.
    • Heroic Island, the Alicorn god of Gaming, Misdirection, and World-Building, and is based on Living Legend and talented game developer Hideo Kojima, known for creating the Metal Gear franchise and trolling his fans. What furthers the connection is Heroic Island's name being a translation of Hideo Kojima's name, his clashes with the video-game company that psychologically abused him and sabotaged his career, and his founding of his own video-game company, Heroic Island Productions (based on Kojima Productions).
    • Spiraling Yarn is based on Junji Ito, a horror mangaka who is one of Hideo Kojima's close friends. Like Junji Ito, he is a horror manegaka who is friends with Heroic Island, and once collaborated with him on the creation of Silent Hills before it was cancelled. Spiraling Yarn's name is also an onomatopoeia - 'Spiraling' was taken from Junji Ito's manga, Uzumaki (whose title translates to 'swirl'), and 'Yarn' is a transliteration of Ito.
    • Protecting Bull is based on Guillermo del Toro, a renowned movie director and author. Like Spiraling Yarn, he also collaborated with Heroic Island on the creation of Silent Hills before it was cancelled. Protecting Bull's name is based on a translation of Del Toro's name - 'Guillermo' means "protection", while 'Del Toro" means "the bull".
    • Film Trivia is based on Quentin Tarantino, being a famous director/writer just like him. And like Quentin, he worked for a powerful movie company CEO who turned out to be a serial sex predator/abuser in private. According to one of the Codex writers, Film Trivia was created because she wanted to have a benevolent version of Quentin in the Codexverse, since the only Expy of him at the time was the brutish, abusive Colton Marentino.
  • Ghosts of the Past has the President of Russia, Volodya, who is clearly based on Vladimir Putin — he's a former KGB officer and anti-West hardliner, and even his name is based on one of Putin's own nicknames. Surprisingly, he's not portrayed as an arc villain, but as a reasonable enough guy who dislikes the Avengers and despises SHIELD, but doesn't want a fight with them - he is accordingly infuriated by Lukin's antics because they've set his own, far more patient and sensible plans back by decades. Then Lukin kills him.
  • Most of the characters in The Great Meta Fic and Meta-Fic Alt: Rising War are based on real people from the RWBY Subreddit, or rather highly dramatized versions of their Reddit personas.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, the Music Meister, who is voiced by Neil Patrick Harris in the cartoon, actually is Neil Patrick Harris. “Music Meister” is merely a stage name.
  • The Jem comic Not So Glamorous Life follows canon and uses this for musicians. For example, Vanilla White is currently popular and Mini Panini (Milli Vanilli) recently caused a scandal when they were revealed to be lip-syncing.
  • In the DC Comics Mirror Universe fic The Secret Society of Super-Heroes, Earth-3's Joker counterpart is a rubber-faced comedian called Tim Barry, who Luthor meets when he's playing both Snow Miser and Heat Miser in a Live-Action Adaptation of The Year Without a Santa Claus. A clear pastiche of Jim Carrey and his two Christmas movies; the one (partly) based on an animated special, and the one where he plays multiple characters.

    Pinballs 

    Radio 
  • Adam Armstrong, the Prime Minister in the first three seasons of The BBC Afternoon Play strand Number Ten, was a New Labourite with elements of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. After stepping down, he is replaced in the 2010 season by Simon Laitey, the Eton-educated leader of a Conservative Party in coalition with the Lib Dems.
  • In Goodness Gracious Me, the Indian film director Ranjit Say, whose films are all about two people playing draughts, is a parody of Sandip Ray, whose first film was The Chess Players.
  • Comedy duo Hudson and Landry had a few skits with impressions of celebrities, like Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields.
  • Several of Phil Hendrie's radio characters are admittedly based on celebrities; the borderline-pedophile James McQuarters, for instance, is based on Anthony Hopkins' performance in The Bounty, and Pastor William Rennick is quite obviously Al Sharpton.
  • Two Radio 4 comedy series by Sue Limb are about No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of famous writer's groups: the Lake Poets in The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere and the Bloomsbury Set in Gloomsbury.
  • Two characters in Don Joyce's The Firesign Theatre - type presentations on Negativland's avant-garde weekly KPFA radio happening Over the Edge were Doug Piddle and Peter Diddle, presenters of "The Piddle Diddle Report", based on NBC's ''The Huntley-Brinkley Report." Joyce's growly Doug Piddle voice is a fairly good take on Huntley's.
  • Usually The Goon Show didn't bother to disguise Peter Sellers' vocal imitations under fictional identities. One exception is in "The Starlings", where the Duchess Boil de Spudswell sounds suspiciously like the Queen.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Scion April Fools' Day supplement Scion: Extras features Sci, a Scion of the Japanese pantheon, best known for internet meme "Scion Style", riffing on PSY and Gangnam Style. Lyrics for "Scion Style" are provided. Meanwhile, Irish Scion Jack Caricature, a game developer who herds cats, is a good-natured spoof of then-current Scion 2e developer Joe Carriker.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, White Wolf spoof themselves with Pentex subsidiary Black Dog Game Factory. In "Subsidiaries: A Guide to Pentex", they extended the parody to the rest of the tabletop RPG industry at the time.
    • In Freak Legions there is a mention of "a fallen movie director. Once flavor of the month and talk of the town, this former video rental clerk turned mega-celebrity grew fat on success sucked from the soured tit of civilization's underbelly. He made the decomposition of the human society entertaining. The violent PULP of his bent FICTION reveled in Gaia's passing. When someone more disgusting came down Hollywood's garbage chute, everyone forgot him - except RAW. The Wyrm made that fomor into a leader, trained to deal death to Garou and well armed with immensely potent Eyes of the Wyrm. He possesses the director's viewfinder to oblivion." An obvious jab at Quentin Tarantino.
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution features a character named Lucky Wacker. If you are a fan of The World/Inferno Friendship Society, you'll probably notice that Lucky Wacker is basically psionic Jack Terricloth. He even looks like him.
  • The Banishers sourcebook for Mage: The Awakening includes John Maverick, an obscenely wealthy, boyishly handsome, self-loathingly closeted bisexual actor who has become an earnest spokesperson of a cult. Any resemblance to Tom Cruise and the Church of Happyology is, of course, coincidental.
  • Duke Rollo of Aberrant is basically Hunter S. Thompson, with his name being a riff on Thompson's alter-ego Raoul Duke.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has Sly Marbo, a One-Man Army for the Catachan Devils, who is at his best fighting in jungles and is of course in no way shape or form related to John Rambo or Sylvester Stallone. His "feats" also come from the list of Chuck Norris facts.
  • If they were notable figures of the mid-Seventies, odds are they appear in Damnation Decade under an outrageous name and with an equally outrageous twist on their role in history.

    Toys 

 
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Tuck Buckerson

Tuck Buckerson, is a clear expy of Fox News' Tucker Carlson. Needless to say, the Warners are nothing but cruel to him.

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