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No Celebrities Were Harmed

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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

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 (see picture to the right), 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.


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 for vampires, Boris Karloff for Frankenstein's monster, Sean Connery or Don Adams for secret agents, Donald Pleasance 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.


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.



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  • 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.

  • 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 


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.



Video Example(s):


Dr. Killjoy

Killjoy bears a startling resemblance to Vincent Price.

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