Naomi McDonald: 'My favourite impression to do is Fearne Cotton. I could talk like her all day, and sometimes I do'

This article is from 2019


credit: Joshua Bilton

The Anglo-American voice artist discusses her favourite impersonations, and how to get them spot on

She's leant her voice to video games such as Warhammer II and Guitar Hero Live, and TV programmes including Thunderbirds Are Go. Naomi McDonald returns to the Fringe mimicking a series of personalities but here finds it impossible to pick her favourite contemporary impersonator.

What do you prefer to be called: impersonator? Impressionist? Mimic? Something else entirely?

What is your first memory of hearing someone impersonate another person?
Dawn French doing Sonia, talking in a high-pitched Liverpudlian accent. I had absolutely no idea who she was at the time, but still thought it was totally hilarious.

What was the first impression you ever attempted and what was the reaction to it?
Aged ten I did impressions of Jerry Springer guests to my parents and they loved it, particularly the swearing bits which I would censor out myself during the impression.

What is your own favourite impersonation? And what is the finest impersonation you've ever heard by someone else?
My favourite impression to do is Fearne Cotton. I could talk like her all day, and sometimes I do. Alistair McGowan's take-off of Richard Madeley was so good; I sometimes think back to the clip and wonder if that was actually just the real Richard Madeley.

What is the one impersonation that you have tried and tried, but just cannot quite get right?
My dad Mac McDonald. I have tried my entire life and have never gotten even close.

What do you find harder: nailing an impression or getting the ideal joke to go with that impression?
They come hand in hand. I tend to talk like them for ages, say outrageous things, record it, listen back, think 'oh that bit was funny and that bit really sounded like them!' Then I mix it all together like a Greek salad and hopefully produce an impression that's both accurate and entertaining.

Who is your favourite impersonator working today?
I couldn't possibly choose one! But Jon Culshaw, Rory Bremner, Kristen Wiig and Alistair McGowan always slay in my books.

What would be the one piece of advice you'd give an aspiring impressionist?
Don't focus too much on making it absolutely perfect from the start. The vocal quirks and mannerisms you choose to play with are what make it fun. Oh and do have a listen to them before going on stage, or your Sharon Osbourne might turn into a generic grandma voice on occasion. Ahem …

Naomi McDonald: Copycat, Just the Tonic at The Caves, 3–25 Aug (not 12, 19), 8.50pm, £10–£12 (£8–£10). Previews 1 & 2 Aug, £5.

Naomi McDonald: Copycat

Austin Talent Impressionist, comedian and singer Naomi brings to life all your favourite stars in her brand-new show. It’s your chance to see celebs as you’ve never seen them before! Adele croons over custard creams, Nigella Lawson defrosts meals in her bathtub and Melania Trump hits the bottle hard. This is a fast, fun…