Jan Ravens: 'The first impression I ever did was my mum. She sounded a bit like Hyacinth Bucket'

This article is from 2019

Fringe female impersonators: Jan Ravens

English actress and impressionist discusses her first impressions and favourite impersonations from across her long-running career

A veteran of the impersonation game, Jan Ravens has worked on Spitting Image and was the Cadbury's Caramel advertising bunny for a while. While preparing for a Fringe run with the Dead Ringers gang, she tells us which impressions tickle her the most

What do you prefer to be called: impersonator? Impressionist? Mimic? Something else entirely?
Actor SLASH comedian SLASH impressionist.

What is your first memory of hearing someone impersonate another person?
Probably Mike Yarwood doing Harold Wilson.

What was the first impression you ever attempted and what was the reaction to it?
The first impression I ever did was my mum. She sounded a bit like Hyacinth Bucket.

What is your own favourite impersonation? And what is the finest impersonation you've ever heard by someone else?
My favourites tend to be quite different from the audiences. They love Theresa May and Diane Abbott. I love Penelope Wilton and Dame Hilary Mantel!

My favourites of other people… ooh there's so many. I sometimes go for the more subtle ones rather than the big hitters. I've always had a soft spot for Jon Culshaw's John Craven, Rory Bremner's Nick Robinson, and Debra Stephenson's Claudia Winkleman. Duncan Wisbey's Paul McCartney is brilliant and Lewis MacLeod's Trump is inspired.

What is the one impersonation that you have tried and tried, but just cannot quite get right?
Jenni Murray off Woman's Hour. Can't get deep or husky enough...

What do you find harder: nailing an impression or getting the ideal joke to go with that impression?
Luckily the Dead Ringers writers are there to keep coming up with tip-top jokes week after week. I'm OK with nailing the impression. I'll always do my best!

Who is your favourite impersonator working today?
I work with so many of them I couldn't possibly say! The guys are all so brilliant in their different ways. I would like to see more young female impressionists coming up, particularly doing satirical material. Of the younger guys, Luke Kempner and Josh Berry are doing some very well-observed stuff.

What would be the one piece of advice you'd give an aspiring impressionist?
Keep paying attention. Detail is the key

Jan Ravens appears in Dead Ringers, Pleasance at EICC, 3–13 Aug, 6.30pm, £17 (£16). Preview 2 Aug, £10.

Dead Ringers Live

So Comedy and Broken Robot Productions, by arrangement with BBC The legendary BBC Radio 4 series hits the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time in this special live residency starring the dream team of Jon Culshaw, Jan Ravens, Lewis MacLeod and Duncan Wisbey. Featuring a mixture of classic sketches, new martial and of…