Alistair McGowan is coming to Wimborne
James Rampton interviews Alistair McGowan.who is coming to Wimborne's Tivoli Theatre on 13th September.
ALISTAIR McGowan is the nation’s favourite impressionist. He has dazzled us for the past two decades with an unmatched repertoire of brilliant impersonations. However, as the title of his wonderful new show underlines, he is “Not Just A Pretty Voice.” There is far more to this comedian than a fantastic array of other people’s voices.
In the run-up to the tour, Alistair explains the thinking behind the title of the show. “As well as hearing the first known impressions of : Alan Shearer, Mickey Flanagan and Roger Federer, people will find out my views about a few things. You can’t just do voices – you have to have something behind that which says something about them – and about you.”
It is an absolute pleasure to see Alistair on stage again. The comedian, who made four series of the hugely popular, BAFTA-winning, BBC1 show, Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression, is a marvelous live performer, who cultivates a terrific rapport with his audiences.
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But don’t just take my word for it. The critics have been rushing to praise Alistair’s show. The Sunday Mirror describes his act as, “Wickedly funny mimicry.” Meanwhile, This Is Nottingham declares that, “Even if Alistair McGowan wasn’t an impressionist and stuck simply to stand-up gaggery, he’d surely be one of the best comics on the circuit. As it is, he gives us a double layer of excellence.”
In person, Alistair is just as funny as he is on stage. He can be summed up by all those adjectives beginning with W: witty, warm and wise.
And he is eager to start touring. “I’m very excited about it,” enthuses the comedian, who last summer wrote and presented ITV1’s topical, sports-comedy show, You Cannot Be Serious! “I think this is absolutely the best material I’ve ever done since I first ventured into a stand-up club some 24 years ago.”
In those 24 years, Alistair has also enjoyed great success as an actor both on television (he had a small part in Bleak House, a bigger one in Preston Front and took the lead role in BBC1’s Mayo) and on stage (he has starred in productions such as Cabaret, The Mikado, Measure for Measure, Pygmalion and Little Shop of Horrors), but he finds performing live comedy hard to beat. “When you’re saying things you’ve written, that you find funny and audiences are laughing loudly at them, it’s the biggest buzz there is.”
He even finds the physical, geographical demands of touring enjoyable. “We live in a beautiful country and getting to see its hidden corners by touring is (generally) such a privilege. You’re asked to visit so many lovely places, many of which you’ve never heard of : I’m really looking forward to going to towns like Builth Wells, Great Torrington and Mylor in Cornwall. Sean Hughes gave me some good advice while I was killing myself doing six one-night shows a week on my last tour. He said, ‘Never do more than three shows a week, buddy! Give yourself time to enjoy it.’ So that’s what I will be doing on this tour.”
“Not Just a Pretty Voice” asks the big questions like : would the world be a better place if Ed Miliband was Prime Minister? Is Hillary Devey Jesse J’s mum? And what is really going through our minds when we’re watching Shakespeare? Be prepared to hear everyone from Andy Murray to Colin Murray, routines on everything from Jeff Stelling to bad spelling and at least one song about butter.
Alistair adds that, “There will be sections about feeling one’s age, the problems of having and not having children, plenty of puns and Roy Hodgson singing.” Can’t wait!
Audiences seem to adore impersonations. Alistair explains why. “If people laugh at an impression, it simply shows they’ve noticed something about a celebrity, but have never put it into words. I love watching people doing impressions myself. My fiancee does some really good ones. When I’m watching her, I think, ‘That’s crazy – that voice should not be coming out of your mouth’. When she does a good Scarlett Johansson, I’ll marry her!’
" But people like seeing that change. Audiences always appreciate the skill, the virtuosity, but it still has to be backed up with good material if it’s not just going to be showing-off.”
“For instance, I have been trying to impersonate the MP, Diane Abbott, because I noticed she has a very unusual way of talking. But I can’t find the right routine for her yet. When I do, I will be childishly thrilled and she will be in the act!”
Alistair continues that he is constantly searching for the similarities between voices so he can make comedy from subtly shifting between them. “If you listen to Tim Henman talking about tennis, he soon starts to sound like Jack Dee. Jo Brand is very similar to Sarah Beeney and Gary Barlow is a whisker away from Dave from The Royal Family - as is Gary Neville. I‘m still working on a really long ‘chain’ of several voices. I hope I have that ready soon !”
The comedian stresses the simplicity of the show. “I’ve never been wowed by technology. It’s just me and a microphone. There are no sets, no props, no projections. It’s all about trying to create different energies through one voice. I hope that by the end of the evening, the audience really feel that they have been in the presence of 90-odd, well-known characters and not just in the presence of a 48 year-old balding man from Worcestershire.”
Nor is Alistair interested in cutting edge satire.
“I just do jokes. I’m not trying to bring the government down. I have never set out to do anything overtly political. In the past, some reviewers have said that my show doesn’t have the edge of Rory Bremner. But I’ve never wanted that. All I want to do is make audiences laugh.”
And that is something Alistair does as well as anyone.
Details of Alistair McGowan’s “Not Just a Pretty Voice” tour can be found at www.offthekerb.co.uk End