Rich Little: King of impressions 

Known as “Man of a Thousand Voices,” Rich Little has entertained millions since he started his career at age 14, impersonating his teachers at school in Ottawa, Canada.

Particularly famous for his mimicry of presidents and political figures, Little has mastered more than 200 voices, including Ronald Reagan, Johnny Carson, Andy Rooney, and now Barack Obama.   

Little finds it especially easy to poke fun at presidents when they run into problems, saying it makes them easy targets.

Old movie stars and musicians are also fair game, but Little says, “I don’t do Brad Pitt very well.”
While the height of his career more than 20 years ago, Little still performs in Las Vegas — where he lives with wife Marie — and kicked off his one-man show as Jimmy Stewart in May.

He’ll appear Aug. 8 at the University of San Francisco’s Presentation Theater in “Comedy Talks,” a three-part panel discussion series of sorts that brings the late-night talk show format to the live stage.

Carol Channing, Ronnie Schell, George Segal, Paul Mazursky, Steve Rossi, Robert Morse, Shelley Berman and Will Durst also are participating in the event, which begins Sunday.  

“There is nothing more addictive than having comedians get each other laughing about their personal stories,” says the show’s host, comic  Robert Strong, who co-produced the presentation with Juliana Gallin.

Little – who spent time in San Francisco filming “Love on a Rooftop” in the 1960s — looks forward to returning to The City. He says, “I don’t know how much I know about comedy, but this should be a fun and different event.”

Calling contemporary times good for comedians, Little sees laughter as a good distraction from issues such as the tough economy. “It’s hard to laugh when you lose your job, but comedy lets you forget your problems for a couple of hours,” says Little.

He find a contrast between today’s comedians, who talk a lot about  their own life experiences, are graphic and aim for shock value, vs. older generation comics, who prefer to tell jokes.

“Young people say whatever is on their mind,” says Little. “Key-up the audience and give ‘em a few drinks, they’ll laugh at anything.”

In Las Vegas, Little enjoys comedy by Gordie Brown and Bob Anderson, but admits, “it’s tough to get laughs especially when all the jokes are in Washington.”

Offstage, Little likes to read, go to shows, play tennis occasionally, and watch old movies — the older the better he says. “A few days ago, I saw one so old Hitler was on our side.”



IF YOU GO

Comedy Talks


Where: USF Presentation Theater, 2350 Turk Blvd, San Francisco
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15
Tickets: $35 to $75
Contact: (415) 829-8000, www.comedytalks.com

Sunday — George Segal, Paul Mazursky, Ronnie Schell
Aug. 8 — Rich Little, Carol Channing, Steve Rossi
Aug. 15 — Robert Morse, Shelley Berman, Will Durst

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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