Trylooking and talking exactly like a Philippine president. Or seamlessly imitatinga Hollywood/local showbiz celebrity. Be sure to have the proper costume,makeup, and wig. Dramatize a typical situation or interview, exaggerate yourgestures—all the while keeping the original personality traits, mannerisms, andvoice intact. Above all, as if it was the easiest thing to do (which isn’t),make the audience laugh!
That’simpersonation. We’re not talking about look-alikes in scandal-mongering Netvideos, of course, or fraudulent posturing that could land you in court and/orjail.
Asa form of stand-up comedy, impersonation is similar to, and may include, impressionisttechniques. An impressionist, like the popular Frank Caliendo in the U.S.who does Pres. Bush, can tell relevant anecdotes or do a mock interview whileimpersonating his subject. He creates one solid impression; for example, astupid Bush pretending to be in authority.
Impersonators put themselves completely in theshoes of whoever they want to satirize or make fun of, whether that publicfigure likes it or not—the more controversial, or adored, the better. The wholepackage, from makeup to unique speech accent, portrays the real-life person withfunny twists and turns. It can be a one-person stand-up act or part of a TV show,movie or play. Impersonators also dance and sing expertly like their chosenshowbiz personality.
Andso, audiences come away with impressions that may intensify what they already knowof the personality or with a new way of looking at fame, human frailty, socialmanners and politics.
ManyFilipino actors and actresses have ventured into impersonation but only aselect few can be so hilarious that they’re famous for whom they’re not in reallife. Performers like Willie Nepomuceno, Tessie Tomas, and Jon Santos have allbeen successful in this field. It’s a wonder that they can perfectly imitate notjust one but various personalities in different fields.
Comedianswho create their own character are of a different class and caliber, and so,are not included here. Worth mentioning is TV director Jun Urbano who createdthe Mongolian Mr. Shooli on IBC-13’s MongolianBarbecue (1989-99) and who entertained audiences mainly through political satire.
Hereare PEP’s Top Ten impersonators/impressionists, who are among the mostsought-after in showbiz.
WILLIENEPOMUCENO. Willie Nepomuceno, the Philippines’ Master Impersonator,has portrayed more public figures than anyone in the business. He started hisart as a hobby in childhood, to impress uncles and aunts during familygatherings. His favorite then was imitating the singing icon of the ‘50s and‘60s, Sylvia dela Torre. Only in college did Willie discover that people paygood cash to watch an impersonation.
Originally,Willie wanted to become an actor or a singer. But strict requirements for wannabeactors kept him out. “Dapat pogi, eh hinde naman ako puwede doon!” He choseinstead to impersonate the top stars of the day: Victor Wood, Edgar Mortiz, andTirso Cruz III, among others.
Inhis first stint as an imitator, Willie only did voice changes; eventually heimitated his subject’s look as well. His performance was so smooth, Willie couldbe Erap in one minute then switch to Dolphy in the next. He also imitatedformer president Fidel V. Ramos, the late Fernando Poe Jr., and even JaimeCardinal Sin.
TESSIE TOMAS. The Original Queen ofDaytime TV may be considered an inspirational stand-up comedian because thecharacters she portrayed—Amanda Pineda, Margarida, Meldita, among many others—pavedthe way for Jon Santos, Allan K, Candy Pangilinan, and other actors to includeimpersonation in their repertoire.
Tessie’screativity brought her into some of TV’s most watched programs, like Teysing Tahanan, Compañero y Compañera with Rene Cayetano, and the sitcoms Onliin da Pilipins, and Abangan ang susunod na Kabanata. Her style anddistinctive approach on comedy look almost natural and lifelike that peoplemight forget that they’re looking at Tessie.
MostNotable Impersonation: “Imelda Marcos”
JONSANTOS. Oneof the few actors who can impersonate a man or a woman with perfect ease andgusto is none other than Jon Santos. His forte lies in his makeup and costume,becoming a funnier version of the person who’s lucky enough to be imitated byJon.
Jonhas been impersonating people for more than 19 years now. He focuses on what’shot in the current scene, be it in politics or showbiz. Among his favorites areVilma Santos, Juan Flavier, Kris Aquino, Miriam Defensor Santiago, and even thedifficult ones like Ara Mina, Maui Taylor, and Oprah Winfrey.
Oneof Jon’s most notable impersonations is “Vilma Santos.”
JOEYDE LEON.Joey’s natural comedic aura and cheer have won him the laughter of many fans byimitating some of America’scultural icons like Tarzan, He-Man, the Lone Ranger, Barbie,Superman, Mighty Mouse, Elvis Presley, and James Dean.
Theseacts, represented in his old films, have brought him box-office hits on ashoestring budget. How come? You won’tsee the real Tarzan get hit on the head by a three-foot supporting actor. That’san instance of Joey’s creative humor and resourcefulness.
Parodiesof certain people may bring on criticism, of course, but Joey’s wit and hisability to capture his mass audiences allow him to get away with it.
MostNotable Impersonation: Fernando Poe Jr.
MICHAELV. The Master of Disguise, according to his fans, is more like a cartoon characterthan an impersonator whenever he imitates a person—or even a group of people—inthe GMA-7 gag show Bubble Gang.
Bitoy,as he is commonly known, is a pioneer in turning impersonation to the nextlevel by exaggerating a person’s looks and voice, usually emphasizing one feature,like a mole perhaps.
Withover 50 impersonations to his name, it’s no small wonder that Bitoy can evenimitate fictional characters and foreign actors. Among his best impersonationsare Jet Li, Mike Enriquez, Regine Velasquez, Jon Bon Jovi, and many more.
Bitoynot only impersonates actors and political figures but singers as well. Notonly that, he can make a joke out of the artists’ songs by creating hilariousnew lyrics.
MostNotable Impersonation: Mike Enriquez
JOHN“Sweet” LAPUS. The ever-bubbly host of Showbiz Central did a goodimpersonation of Sheryl Cruz back in the days when he was still a contestant ingay beauty contests.
ThisPEP blogger can also sound like a very convincing Inday Badiday. It was in Rockda Vote where he unleashed his talent as an impersonator, and fellow stand-upcomics like Jon Santos and Tessie Tomas definitely made everything more amusingthan usual.
Johnis no pushover when it comes to comedy. He is confident, and can go head to toewith nearly everyone in the business. His comedic imagination is relentless andhe can easily whip up a short skit that would send everyone in stitches.
Truly,the Teatro Tomasino alumnus uses his talent in doing what he does best: comedy.
MostNotable Impersonation: Kris Aquino
GISELLESANCHEZ. Giselle Sanchez looks like a beauty queen with her poise anddignity. Pitch in a smart brain and you’ve got the perfect package. Gisellecould easily pass for a sexy star but chooses instead to be a sexy comedienne,perfect for the men in her audience whocan hardly keep their mouths shut—not from drooling, mind you, but fromlaughing at her antics and “don’t give a damn” attitude. Stand-up comedy is abreeze for Giselle.
TheU.P. Mass Communications graduate became part of an organization in college(Samaskom) and performed for the organization’s annual musical-comedy-varietyshow, Live A.I.D.S. It was Tessie Tomas who discovered Giselle’s playfulpersonality, and eventually got her a small part in the sitcom Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata.
Fromplaying trigger-happy in Abangan to portraying a wisecracking maid in PugadBaboy, Giselle has definitely stayed on to be one of comedy’s funniest (andprobably sexiest) celebrities. Her repertoire of naughty humor and playfuldisposition make her a sought-after performer not only here but abroad as well.
CANDYPANGILINAN. Another one of Rock da Vote’s prized comedians is CandyPangilinan who, with her fellow stand-up comics, creates a series of riotous impersonationcomedies. Candy’s razor sharp wit has brought her success in skits and soloperformances—most notable of which is her Candy’s Be Love concert.
Candy’sportrayal of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is probably her most natural andconvincing impersonation, mainly because of the acute reference to thesenator’s stern bearing and matchless diction.
MostNotable Impersonation: Miriam Defensor-Santiago
MANNYPOOH-QUIAO. Pooh, whose real name is Reynold Garcia, can easily be mistakenfor the People’s Champion as he possess nearly every facial feature—hair(especially the bangs!), moustache, and the distinctive accent. Looks alonewon’t convince a crowd but Pooh can move nearly the same way as the Pacman, andcan pull off a convincing one-two punch and finish it off with a punch line.
Poohwas first heard cracking jokes and stories as an in-house performer at a comedysing-along bar in Malate, Manila.His impersonation of Manny Pacquiao during those times were light, but became amore serious affair when the boxer became a household name. Pooh’s extensiveresearch on Manny’s mannerisms earned him a ticket to celebrity status as hesoared with the champion boxer’s fame but on the comedy route. TV guestings andopportunities to perform in major comedy bars earned Pooh a place among some ofthe best stand-up comedians to date and, in time, became household namehimself.
RENEBOY FACUNLA. Rene Boy looks like your average comedian until he transformsinto Ate Glow, the funnier (and much better) version of the President of the Philippines.
Hisimpressive impersonation of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can truly convince theunwary as he is faithful to every detail without crass exaggeration. Rene hasimitated other personalities such as Jolina Magdangal and Nora Aunor but it washis GMA impersonation during the campaign period that made his mark.
So,the next time you bump into Erap or Ate Vi or Kris, make sure they're theoriginals! Our very own impersonators are that good.