Imitation is the act of copying a person's speech or body language. While most people try to imitate someone's voice, a really great imitation requires the full body. Regardless of whether you want to imitate your friends or an audience, good impersonations demand a little more than attention to detail and practice.
Method 1 of 3: Imitate Voices
Step 1. Focus on imitating vowels, which is often the way to get an accent
Think of the Boston-area "ar" pronunciation in words like "car" or "park" (pronounced like "cahh" or "pahh-k"), or the long, loud sound "aye "in the Australian" A ". Defining vowels precisely will help you quickly turn each word into an imitation, and is the most obvious way to express your voice.
- Does the person you imitate extend the vowels? Are they short and fast?
- Do you “replace” vowels with other vowel sounds? For example, some Spanish speakers turn an “i” into a long “eeeee”.
Step 2. Omit the syllables and words as the person you are imitating does
For example, in the United States, a Southerner usually omits the G at the end of words that end in "-ing", so that "going" sounds more like "goin". American speakers across the country skip syllables in the center of words like “average” (“av-reg”), so pay attention to these little abbreviations. While not all accents and tones of voice omit words or syllables, you can usually find some variation in common words with strong accents or voices.
Step 3. Identify the “location” of the voice to get the correct pitch at all times
Most imitations will not be in your natural vocal “range,” meaning you will have to speak lower or higher to get it right. If this is confusing, sing on a high note and then a very low note. With the high note, pay attention to the way your voice vibrates in your head, but the low note vibrates in your chest. Using these two marks as references, determine where you need the accent to come from. Once you've got the tone right, make a mental note of where the voice "comes from."
If you're doing a live impersonation, you don't want people to wait while you “find” the accent. Locating where the voice came from is a good way to achieve consistency
Step 4. Make a list of the person's most famous words and phrases
For example, if you want to imitate Arnold Schwarzenegger, you better have the phrase "Goodbye, baby" ready. If you want to imitate Bernie Sanders, say "percent" (pronounced "perthent" with a lisp). If you're talking about Donald Trump, the word "huge" (pronounced like "yuuuge") should be prominent. People worth imitating often have large, colorful vocabularies and recognizable phrases. Therefore, be sure to use them.
- Are there phrases associated with the person you want to imitate, even though you don't usually use them in real life? For example, a good Michael Jackson impression should have a "heee-heee!" in a high-pitched tone.
- What common words does it substitute? For example, in Peru, the term “paltear” is used instead of “embarrass”, such as “This situation paltea me”.
Step 5. Think about the pattern and rhythm of the speech to tie it all together
This is not so much what is said or the accent used, but how the words come out. Consider Sacha Baron Cohen's famous character Borat: while you can pick up the accent, the impersonation won't be complete until you use his expressions correctly, such as "How are you, vanilla face?" This is an essential detail for a good imitation of the fictional Kazakh citizen. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Does the person you want to imitate speak slowly or is he quick to speak? Pacing is important!
- Where do you pause or emphasize? To take this to the extreme, check out the William Shatner or Christopher Walken impersonations, as both actors have extremely unique pauses in their speech patterns.
Method 2 of 3: Imitate Mannerisms and Physical Qualities
Step 1. Mimic and exaggerate the person's general body language
If you are going to imitate a powerful and confident figure like Bill Clinton or Idris Elba, you will need to stand up straight, puff out your chest, and lift your chin. If you prefer to do a lazier or more relaxed imitation, like The Dude, or Cheech and Chong, sink your shoulders and move slowly. Rather than trying to perfectly mimic the person's unique body language, use their general mood or personality to get a rough idea that your audience will recognize.
- If you are imitating an energetic character (Kanye West, Robin Williams, Tom Cruise, etc.), make sure you move continuously and speak quickly.
- Write down and incorporate any large, broad, or exclusively personal gesture. For example, a Michael Jackson knockoff would benefit considerably from a crotch twist and grip.
Step 2. Observe a person's hands as they speak, using them to capture their speaking habits
One of the best ways to easily mimic a person's movements is to observe their hands, as they all have slightly different speaking habits. Generally speaking, large, energetic personalities (or Italian) move their hands all the time when speaking, while calmer people tend to keep them low. Politicians tend to point thumb and fist, while loving or sexually prolific people (for example, Prince or perhaps a mean Bill Clinton) tend to touch others frequently.
Step 3. Keep an eye out for facial tics and common expressions
If you want to do a Donald Trump impression, you better be able to smile shyly at the camera. Burt Reynolds impersonators try to keep their jaws moving, much like Norm McDonald's impersonation of the actor on Saturday Night Live. Oprah imitators are experts in the wide-eyed grin and zest that comes with one of their coveted recommendations. The eyes of a person, in particular, are tremendously expressive, that is, you can achieve a perfect imitation if you are able to imitate them properly.
The best places to study are extreme emotions, where people tend to present more unique expressions. How does the person you want to imitate behave when they are happy, angry, excited or surprised?
Step 4. Use your clothing to hint at the person's profession or express fame when possible
Sometimes making a costume will be easy. For example, if you want to imitate a politician, you would wear a suit or a tailored suit. Bill Cosby impersonators should wear a large, colorful sweater. Some costumes will be a little less straightforward, but remember that you simply need to convey a general idea. Instead of going out to buy a new costume, use smaller clues and ideas to get the message across:
- Even a garment, such as a hat, shirt, jewelry or tie can serve to convey the idea if you do it correctly.
- Imagine that you came across that person in a coffee shop; what did you see?
- Thrift stores are the best places to get quirky and unique clothing at a very affordable price.
Step 5. Think of a strong or unique accessory that the person you want to imitate might have
This may go without saying, like a jeweled glove like Michael Jackson. You can also go for a little more humor or quirkiness, like an empty jar labeled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction" to imitate President Bush. A famous soccer player could carry a ball; a chef, a spatula; Bugs Bunny, a carrot. Just think of the object that makes the audience notice the imitation.
Method 3 of 3: Combine All
Step 1. Practice in front of a mirror to get the perfect overall look
The best way to make sure your imitation is correct is to view it. Jim Carry spent hours in front of the mirror working on his celebrity knockoffs and clearly the work paid off. Even if you don't do as much physical comedy as Jim Carry, practicing in front of a mirror will allow you to make last-minute adjustments on the fly, and see little things you might not notice otherwise. The more you practice in front of a mirror, the better you will do.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then perform the imitation as soon as you open your eyes. Practicing this "immediate" change will be key when you are in front of a live audience
Step 2. Record yourself practicing listening to your voice as the audience does
Take a few phrases and practice them instead of trying to get the accent out of thin air. Just try to perfectly reproduce some phrases accounts as said by the character you are imitating. Once you get the hang of them, you can start practicing a more general accent, as your mouth and mind become more comfortable with the imitation.
- Can you find other people or actors doing the same imitation? This is generally a good way to practice, as they will naturally exaggerate important areas to help you focus on the imitation.
- Pay attention to the syllables that cause you problems and try to find an example of the character saying them.
- Keep practicing your voice to get better and better. How long can you keep the accent without losing the imitation?
Step 3. Take your mannerisms and accent a little beyond reality
A good imitation does not need to be precise, especially if it is subtle or not particularly unique. A good example of this is Kate McKinnon's recent Hillary Clinton impersonation. Mrs. Clinton does not have a unique voice, accent, or set of mannerisms, but McKinnon exaggerates her dress, facial tics, and flat tone of voice to create something that is not completely "real" Hillary, but is still an immediately recognizable knockoff..
Of course, be careful not to go too far! You should be recognizable, not with a cartoon version of the character
Step 4. Add your own movements, ticks, and ideas as they fit the imitation
Tina Fey's famous Sarah Palin impersonation is credited with the phrase "I can see Russia from my house," but it's not really something Palin ever said. Bobby Moynihan of Saturday Night Live made "Full Throttle" the Guy Fieri catchphrase that he never actually said. A recent Melania Trump impersonation on The Late Show introduced a cold 5-10 second stare to the audience that, while influenced by her, is still a new twist on "character." If you really want to take your knockoffs further for the audience, you will have to paradoxically come up with a few things on the fly.
- Remember that if you are doing this impersonation for an audience, the impersonation itself is not a joke. You will need to do something with it to make people laugh or clap.
- A simple, classic joke premise is to put the knockoff in a situation it would never be in, like a Barack Obama knockoff where you have to order your own food at McDonald's.
Step 5. React to others "in character" rather than relying on common phrases and sentences
A good imitation is fluid, which means that you can react and respond to the conversation without getting out of character. While common phrases and words can help people quickly recognize your character, you should feel comfortable doing a realistic impression. This takes practice as well as commitment to the role. The more you practice the imitation, especially in front of a mirror or a tape recorder, the better it will turn out.
Step 6. Keep in mind that not everyone can do all kinds of imitations
You can only modify your voice to a certain extent. If you have a deep, bass-filled voice, you'll have a hard time mimicking a high pitch, and there's not much you can do to fix it. You will quickly feel whether or not your voice can hit the correct notes, but don't be discouraged if the latter happens. There are many imitations you can do on your own vocal range.