About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Jon Culshaw

Friday, 9 April 2010

Impressionist Jon Culshaw is here with us today and he is bringing some of his famous friends with him.

Jon will be performing tonight at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin for FM 104 'Help a Dublin Child' in aid of the ISPCC.

When did you realise you were good at impersonating?

I used to watch Mike Yard on a Saturday night and I would copy the voices of teachers and local people and those around seemed to chuckle at my impersonations. I was a fan of Spitting Image in the 80's and I thought I would quite like to do something like that rather than an ordinary job that I think I would be awful at.

I read that a receptionist suggested you go professional?

Yes that's true. I had a show on Viking radio and my friend who was a receptionist there was a fan of how I read out the weather in either a Bob Geldof or Frank Bruno way and she said 'why don't you do that professionally?'. Then that's what I did.

You did work on Spitting Image..

I moved to London and it was my first major job in the UK. I did so many characters when I was on that show - Frank Bruno, John Major, Liam Gallagher and it doesn't take long for the numbers to add up.

Did you ever meet some of the people you did impressions of?

Very often you meet people you do. Tony Blair, Ozzy Osbourne, Gordon Brown - there have been conversations with them and sometimes you get introduced to people at times and some people you work with and even do a sketch with them.

You also managed to get through to Downing Street..

That was 1998. I wanted somewhere to test out a William Hague impression and I thought Downing Street would be a good place to start. We weren't expecting to get far and we thought we would get a haughty receptionist and that would still be fun. Luckily we called on a Wednesday and that is the prime ministers question time and luckily that was probably the day that he was most likely to have called so we got through to Tony Blair.

It was a happy fluke. So we called and we said 'Hello Tony' so he knew what was going on.

Does there come a time when you have to stop impersonating someone?

It tends to evolve. Some characters appear on the horizon and then others have to go. It's like a conveyer belt.

Do make-up and prosthetics enhance your impersonation?

If you do an impression of someone, you have to do the body language. Make up these days is so sophisticated and it really helps you get in to character and makes it more and more believable.

Do you accidentally come across a celebrity's voice you can do or do you find the celebrity first and then try to get the voice?

You might notice a character that is worth doing and then when you listen to them in the early stages they may sound like someone else. Michael Caine, John Major and Julian Clary are all similar. I use You tube and Sky to perfect the impersonation- research material is easier to come by.

Michael Sheen did a great impersonation of Tony Blair in The Queen - do you see acting as an area you could move into?

I think he is more than he gives himself credit for. It is impersonation but it is different to what I have done up to now. It's not just a sketch - he was telling a story over a whole feature film and that is something I would like to do.

Do you ever put on a voice and fool your friends?

I used to but you get bored of doing that.

What are you working on at the moment?

Another series of 'The Impressions Show with Culshaw and Stephenson'.