Photo Courtesy of USA Network
When we were kids, we would watch in wonderment when Rich Little would show up on The Mike Douglas Show or The Merv Griffin Show and do impressions of just about anyone from Richard Nixon to Johnny Carson. And when he had his own TV series called The Kopykats which featured him and his famous friends like Fred Travalena, Frank Gorshen and Charlie Callis doing impressions, we were glued to the set. So we were thrilled to hear that the art of the impression is coming back to primetime in USA’s new series First Impressions.
The new series, which premieres tomorrow night at 10:30pm on USA, features Freddie Prinze, Jr. as host and Dana Carvey as the Expert-in-Residence. Each week three amateur impressionists will participate in a series of improv games and the studio audience will select a $10,000 winner. In addition to the guidance of Dana, contestants will be mentored by weekly celebrity guests including Steve Carrell, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tom Arnold, Jon Lovitz and Kate Flannery.
Dana is, of course, himself a master of impressions, most famously his George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot on SNL. In a recent interview the Emmy-winner recalled first being assigned the role of Bush Sr. on SNL, “Everyone said, ‘What are we going to do with him?’ And I was just kind of going, ‘Hey, if you can't do an impression, which we joke about on the show, you just say the name, this is George Bush Sr.’ But basically that one took a year to make something interesting and funny.”
He continued, “Obama was also especially difficult because he had the perceptively deep voice, very much down here. And the ones that are caught up like W. or Clinton, the ones that are caught up in your throat are just easier to do.”
Dana stated that as an up-and-coming comedian he would look to those who came before him for inspiration. He remembered watching Rich Little and Fred Travalena and also taking pointers from some contemporaries. He quipped, “You steal from the best, take everything you can. Robin Williams was a huge influence on me because he was from San Francisco and he was the godfather of comedy. I tried to be him for five years until I figured out no one was as fast as him… I told him that and he says, ‘Oh, I got everything from Jonathan [Winters].’”
Although the show has a competitive element to it, Dana claims it is not a competition show. He stated, “We're not trying to be ‘The Voice’ or ‘American Idol’… It's a celebration really. It's a fun little party. If it evolves, you would want it to be like a night club, in the sense of Hugh Hefner or something. We tried to make it as casual as we could and not dress it up too much.”
First Impressions premieres this Tuesday, May 10 at 10:30 pm/9:30central on USA Network and fans can catch-up on all of Dana Carvey’s greatest hits from Wayne’s World to SNL as well as highlights from First Impressions on NBCU’s new digital subscription comedy service, Seeso.