Nobody really likes impressionists. Sure, they’re psychologically interesting: is the mimicking of other people’s voices a compulsive effort to conceal the real self? Do they ever stop? Do their wives have to put up with Al Pacino at breakfast, Melvyn Bragg at dinner and Dot Cotton murmuring “Oooh, Nick!” during sex? Impressionists are grimly fascinating.
Also, because impressions are difficult to do, you feel obliged to try to enjoy them. You might even sit through more than one episode of Rory Bremner or Alistair McGowan. But before long you realise you’re just nodding and saying: “Yes, that’s what that person sounds like.” Or, if you’re watching The Impressions Show on BBC1: “Hang on, that’s not even what that person sounds like.”
Yet in that very brief window during which impressionists are tolerated, Britain’s Got Talent hopeful Les Gibson flourished. He did a Ross Kemp, a Kevin Webster and a Declan Donnelly that were all delightfully accurate, backed up by an Alan Sugar and an Ant McPartlin that were undeniably from the right parts of the country.
Because Elaine Williams was booed off, it’s possible to quote her stand-up comedy routine in full, verbatim. Here’s exactly what she said: “I like your hairstyle. Where did you go, Toni & Guy? I can do men’s hairdressing. So you know where to come – ‘because I’m worth it’. It could be a good night if you play your cards right. You never know who you could bump into. Just like when I saw Peter Kay: garlic bread! Garlic. Bread. I’m going on my holidays: booked it, packed it, frigged off.”
Now, many people accuse Britain’s Got Talent of being a freak show. Elaine, a 57-year-old who by day does a cookery course and specialises in soup, won’t have dissuaded them. But I enjoyed her vicious surrealist parody of meaningless slogans and rubbish comedy catchphrases. If you thought Elaine saying “garlic bread” was less funny than Peter Kay doing the same, you’re going to have to explain why.
I wasn’t laughing at Elaine’s expense, even if I wasn’t laughing quite for the reasons she intended. That’s a small but important distinction that I intend to cling to as Britain’s Got Talent progresses.
Edward Reid was strange on purpose: he sang Run by Snow Patrol/Leona Lewis, but substituted a series of nursery rhymes for the lyrics, not worrying too much if they fitted the tune. At first the crowd were silent, baffled. Not many I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue fans turn out to see the Britain’s Got Talent auditions, evidently. But by the end people got it and were clapping and laughing.
Edward’s absolutely serious diva delivery was the key and he maintained it brilliantly, even if – like almost everyone on this week’s achingly missable show – it’s surely a trick that’s only worth seeing once.