When impersonating famous people, there is a right way and a wrong way. The right way is of course, to have been a fan of the person and can at least, somewhat act or copy the person in some way. The wrong way is to simply take advantage of the celebrity as a simple look alike and ride their coattails to fame and glory. Considering that impersonating is the most sincerest form of flattery, one should at least be able to play the part too. Unless of course, one was hired this way simply as a decoy in some fashion.
Impersonating famous people has been around for centuries. Often it was the kings and queens who were the most impersonated and usually not in a very good light. Although, with the advent of Hollywood and the star persona, this has been followed with the impersonations of many different folks.
Sometimes, these impersonations can be quite accurate. For example, Rich Little was absolutely great at impersonating many famous people and more recently, the television show Saturday Night Live has always fared well with their versions. Especially, Tina Fey, who did the Sara Palin impersonation and it literally made her an overnight sensation.
Then there was the movie “Catch Me If You Can” and starred Leonardo Di Caprio as a man who impersonated many not so famous people such as an airline pilot, and would literally get away with it. Therefore, his impersonations would have had to be exquisite in their own right.
Regardless, does one have to choose specifically a famous person in order to properly impersonate? For example, there are many clowns that will usually be available for birthday parties and such. Does this mean that these clowns have to be famous clowns such as Emmit Kelly of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey fame. Of course not, we all have our perceptions of what a clown is supposed to be and many times, it is the goofy and funny clown that we usually think of and expect when we order that special delivery for little Johnny’s birthday party. This is a generalized version of impersonation.
Now, on the other hand, if one is playing Elvis, then one is expected to look and act, as well as probably sing at least somewhat like the original king of rock and roll. That is our expectations and we will accept no less. This is where the clown has at least some leeway in improvisation and where Elvis will not.