Impressed by Alistair, the voice of the nation

Alistair McGowan
Alistair McGowan
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Alistair McGowan is the nation’s favourite impressionist.

He has dazzled us for the past two decades with an unmatched repertoire of brilliant impersonations. However, as the title of his wonderful new show underlines, he is “Not Just A Pretty Voice.” There is far more to this comedian than a fantastic array of other people’s voices.

In the run-up to the tour, Alistair explained the thinking behind the title of the show, which is at the City Varieties in Leeds this Sunday.

“As well as hearing the first known impressions of Alan Shearer, Mickey Flanagan and Roger Federer, people will find out my views about a few things. You can’t just do voices – you have to have something behind that which says something about them – and about you.”

In person, Alistair is just as funny as he is on stage. He can be summed up by all those adjectives beginning with W: witty, warm and wise.

And he is eager to start touring. “I’m very excited about it,” said the comedian.

“I think this is absolutely the best material I’ve ever done since I first ventured into a stand-up club some 24 years ago.”

Not Just a Pretty Voice asks the big questions like: would the world be a better place if Ed Miliband was Prime Minister? Is Hillary Devey Jesse J’s mum? And what is really going through our minds when we’re watching Shakespeare? Be prepared to hear everyone from Andy Murray to Colin Murray, routines on everything from Jeff Stelling to bad spelling and at least one song about butter.

Alistair also explained the appeal of impersonations.

“If people laugh at an impression, it simply shows they’ve noticed something about a celebrity, but have never put it into words. I love watching people doing impressions myself. My fiancee does some really good ones. When I’m watching her, I think, ‘That’s crazy – that voice should not be coming out of your mouth’. When she does a good Scarlett Johansson, I’ll marry her!

“Audiences always appreciate the skill, the virtuosity, but it still has to be backed up with good material if it’s not just going to be showing-off. I’ve been trying to impersonate the MP Diane Abbott, because I she has a very unusual way of talking. But I can’t find the right routine for her yet. When I do, I will be childishly thrilled and she will be in the act!”

He prides himself on the simplicity of his shows – “I’ve never been wowed by technology. It’s just me and a microphone”– and he’s not interested in cutting edge satire. “I just do jokes. I’m not trying to bring the government down. I have never set out to do anything overtly political. In the past, some reviewers have said my show doesn’t have the edge of Rory Bremner. But I’ve never wanted that. All I want to do is make audiences laugh.”

And that is something Alistair does as well as anyone.