Northeast Times

Rich Little has always made a good impression

When Rich Little was about 5 or 6, he would stand in front of his class and just ramble on, much to the de­light of his teach­ers — un­til they couldn’t stand his con­stant chat­ter any­more.

“I had a great ima­gin­a­tion and I’d go off in sev­er­al dir­ec­tions. The teach­ers thought it was cute, un­til they fi­nally had had enough and told me to sit down,” said Little, 72, who turned his gift of gab in­to be­com­ing one of the best known im­pres­sion­ists in the world. 

He’ll share his tal­ents with audi­ences at the Sellers­ville Theat­er in Bucks County on Fri­day, Oct. 14.

“I would sit in class and get bored,” said Little, who was born in Canada, “and since I was al­ways a great ob­serv­er of people, I’d start to do im­pres­sions, and they would get big laughs, which I en­joyed.”

Now nick­named “The Man of a Thou­sand Voices,” Little began try­ing out his im­pres­sions on his class­mates by im­per­son­at­ing the voices of his teach­ers. He then moved on to do­ing the voices of loc­al politi­cians and some movie stars. 

“It star­ted as just a hobby to amuse my­self, but later, as I got bet­ter, I was asked to per­form at vari­ous loc­al con­ven­tions, wherever they were look­ing for some sort of tal­ent,” he said.

And as his tal­ent blos­somed, Little’s im­pres­sions began to catch on, and one day he was asked to au­di­tion for Mel Torme, who was pro­du­cing a new vari­ety show for Judy Gar­land. The au­di­tion won him the job; in 1964, Little made his Amer­ic­an tele­vi­sion de­but on The Judy Gar­land Show. His im­pres­sions of people like James Ma­son in A Star Is Born de­lighted Gar­land.

As his pop­ular­ity con­tin­ued to grow, Little began ap­pear­ing on oth­er pop­u­lar TV shows as well as some of his own, in­clud­ing The Rich Little Show and The New You Asked For It. His Rich Little’s Christ­mas Car­ol, one of sev­er­al pro­grams he’s done for HBO, garnered an Emmy award. One of his more re­cent ap­pear­ances on HBO was as Johnny Car­son in the movie The Late Shift, which dealt with the race to suc­ceed Car­son on The To­night Show. 

Little also was seen on day­time soap op­er­as and do­ing some dra­mat­ic guest shots on TV series like Fantasy Is­land, Murder She Wrote, Po­lice Wo­man, Man­nix and oth­ers. 

Of course, per­haps noth­ing beats do­ing the voices of some of his fa­vor­ite stars.  ldquo;I love do­ing Ron­ald Re­agan be­cause we were such good friends and I ad­mired him,” Little said. “I also love do­ing Jimmy Stew­art, who was a good friend of mine. And now, some sixty years later, I find my­self do­ing a one-man show on Jimmy’s life. I’m tour­ing the coun­try with it now, and I hope to bring it to Broad­way soon.”

Little ad­ded that his fa­vor­ite im­pres­sions are al­ways the ones the pub­lic seems to en­joy most, in­clud­ing Jack Nich­olson, Richard Nix­on and George Burns.  Some of his fe­male im­pres­sions in­clude en­ter­tain­ers Car­ol Chan­ning and Kath­er­ine Hep­burn and TV char­ac­ter Edith Bunker. 

Of course, he ad­ded, some voices are much easi­er to do than oth­ers. For ex­ample, Frank Sinatra was dif­fi­cult to get down, and it still can be tough to do.

“I knew him well, and a couple of times when we worked to­geth­er, he’d give me some sug­ges­tions,” said Little. “Still, his voice is very chal­len­ging, and some­times I still think I’m a little off.”

Politi­cians, Little said, also are fa­vor­ites with audi­ences.

“Bill Clin­ton is easy to do,” said the im­pres­sion­ist. “You just talk as if you need to clear your throat. I think al­most any­body can do him. On the oth­er hand, Barack Obama is not easy to do, al­though he does have a cer­tain style. Oth­er politi­cians like Rick Perry are slowly com­ing to­geth­er but, of course, all these politi­cians could eas­ily fade away and I’d have to find oth­ers to do. But I will. I’m sure I will.” ••

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