JON Culshaw, the Ormskirk-born man of many voices, is relishing being able to bring his mickey-taking to the mainstream masses.
The Impressions Show With Culshaw and Stephenson (that’s the multi-talented actress Debra Stephenson, who played Frankie Baldwin in Coronation Street) had its latest outing on BBC1 last Saturday – when we saw Gordon Ramsay making his CBeebies debut, Anne Robinson doing battle with Simon Cowell and Ant and Dec getting lost in the jungle.
Jon, only 41 but already a veteran thanks to a TV CV which includes Spitting Image, Dead Ringers, 2DTV, The Impressionable Jon Culshaw and Headcases, is delighted with the feel and format of the show.
The acclaimed Dead Ringers, he stresses, was “a topical, more political type of show”, and he’d been looking to do a Saturday night entertainment series “that all the family can gather around and enjoy”.
“People need a laugh,” says Jon, who attended St Anne’s Catholic Primary School and St Bede’s Catholic High School in Ormskirk and St John Rigby College in Or rell, near Wigan.
And he adds: “Although we take the mickey out of people on the telly, there is goodness at the heart. We’re not gratuitously cruel, but we do give people some stick.”
Jon and Debra take great delight in lampooning the great and good of the celebrity world – not least those involved in the two giants of the Saturday night schedules . . . Strictly Coming Dancing and The X Factor.
Working with Debra has allowed the pair to tackle new territory by taking on “two-handers”, including Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell, and Tess Daly and Brucie.
“Up until now, people haven’t necessarily realised what a brilliant mimic Debra is,” he says of his co-star.
The One Show’s Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley are another familiar pairing popping up throughout the series: “We had a blissful day being them,” says Jon.
“Even though we were being slightly merciless about their show, we were allowed to run amok in their studio.”
Without missing a beat, Jon becomes ‘Simon Cowell’ – after being asked how difficult it is to mimic the music mogul: “Yeah, there’s that sense of the slick, the arrogance, the smugness, the stuck-up, be-trousered attitude.”
You can almost see the ‘be-trousered’ striking his famously nonchalant pose: “He’s a great character,” adds Jon, returning to his own voice.
A few select politicians are also in the mix, although Jon points out: “We haven’t done political things with them. Gordon Brown is very recognisable. Think what you like about him as a Prime Minister but his voice and mannerisms are very do-able indeed from an impersonator’s point of view.”
And Tory leader David Cameron has made a few appearances in offbeat sketches that ask “Where does David Cameron go at night?”
Jon explains: “He’s a twinkly sort of character, like a jolly scoutmaster who’s eager to please, so the next step is to make him a sort of sprite character. It’s surreal and a bit daft.”