IMITATION is the sincerest form of flattery. For Ireland’s comics, it’s also a professional hazard. Comedians Dermot Morgan, Sean Crummey, Mario Rosenstock, Oliver Callan and Risteárd Cooper all found fame ‘as someone else’.
From TV personalities, to pop stars and politicians, no-one is safe from being mimicked, says Callan, who can be heard on Callan’s Kicks on RTÉ Radio 1 every Friday. “Nobody’s impossible to mimic, some just take a little bit longer,” he says. “None of the targets are anyone who can’t take it. We’re not mimicking anyone who’s particularly vulnerable or weak.”
Callan also says “the recession has been a good time for comedy. It was difficult to satirise people during the boom years, because no-one wanted to snipe; nobody was really interested in taking out politicians or bankers.
“Now that’s what people want. The audience want to see someone get taken apart.”
We asked some of Ireland’s most imitated personalities to reveal how they feel about being lampooned.
“I very much enjoy the Après Match take off of me, though I rarely use the expression ‘okey doke’. I always imagined that the Cork characterisation was a bit excessive, but my colleagues, John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady, think it’s spot-on, and my wife, Hilary happens to agree with them. The sketches never embarrass me. To be honest, I would have been upset if they lampooned the others and ignored me,” says the sports broadcaster.
“Life is way too short to get offended by something that’s meant as a bit of fun. Over the years, I have been impersonated on a number of shows, including Après Match, Callan’s Kicks, and, perhaps most famously, The Mario Rosenstock Show, and always find it very funny. I’m really fond of all my impersonators, but find Mario’s take-off particularly hilarious, and know lots of other people who enjoy it, too. The only thing is, I keep telling him to straighten his hair. And I never ever use the word ‘genuinely’ anymore,” says the broadcaster.
“I think Oliver Callan’s show, Callan’s Kicks, is brilliant, and listen to it every opportunity I get. It makes me laugh like a drain. But while I’m very flattered to be impersonated by Oliver, probably the best impression I’ve ever heard of myself was by Donal Toolan, on Scrap Saturday. It’s very important to be able to laugh at ourselves and each other. However, I also think personalised vulgarities should be kept to a minimum,” says the politician.
“Contrary to David McSavage’s impression, I’ve never said ‘Rahoo, rahoo, rahoo!’ once in my life. Now, I get people shouting it at me in the street. Long before he started doing me, on The Savage Eye, though, Mario Rosenstock’s impression on Gift Grub was voted one of Ireland’s favourite sketches of all time. Once, I even went on the show with Mario, as ‘Hector 1’ and ‘Hector 2’, and the listeners had to figure out which one was the real Hector. I don’t mind it. Anything that makes people laugh is a good thing,” the travel show host says.
“I don’t get the time to see or hear all the impersonations of politicians around, but when I do, I enjoy them. The worst thing in politics is to take yourself too seriously. I went to see Mario Rosenstock’s live show, and when he spotted me in the audience he impersonated me and we had a chat, which was very funny. I often hear Oliver Callan on the radio, when I’m travelling back from Department-related events around the country, on Fridays and, in fairness, his impressions are first-rate. And Eleanor Tiernan’s sketch [on Irish Pictorial Weekly], in which she does a voiceover to old footage of me, when I was a junior minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs, is priceless — and shows the perils of old footage. Mind you, as good as they are, I think they all still have a bit to go to get the voice exactly right.”