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Watch Robin Williams’ 13 Funniest Impressions

The Oscar-winning actor and comedian was best known for his improvisational genius, and his truly remarkable knack for mimicry

Rolling Stone Aug 12, 2014
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In films like Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams proved time and time again that he was so much more than simply a comedic actor. But by God, what a gifted comedian he was. He was rightly lauded for his improvisational genius, and his truly remarkable knack for mimicry. In just a quick facial expression or a single word, Williams’ impressions captured the essence of his subjects, which encompassed everything from his fellow Hollywood stars like Jack Nicholson and Christopher Walken to Siri, the iPhone gal friday. Here are some of his best.

 

1. Siri

A clip from an Ellen episode, here Williams turns into Siri, then pivots mid-impression into a disgusted Frenchman.

2. Jack Nicholson

In this clip, from a U.K. talk show, you can see the difference between a good impression and a great one. As Williams and fellow guest Elijah Wood swap Jack Nicholson stories, they each try out their Jack voice. Williams does his at 1:50 in.

3. Christopher Walken

Few actors are as fun to imitate as Christopher Walken, and no one did it quite as well as Williams. In this brief clip from one of his stand-up specials, Williams does Walken as (why not?) a porn star.

 

4. Walter Cronkite

You have to get through the aforementioned Christopher Walken impression, and a not-bad Bono, to get to the gold in this clip: Walter Cronkite. Starting at 3:09, Williams delivers a filthy joke with all of Cronkite’s vaunted vocal gravitas.

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5. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Sullivan

Robin Williams’ voice work as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin was a tour-de-force. In this scene, where his wish-granter is first discovered by the titular character, Williams casually drops in an Arnold Schwarzenegger and then a truly remarkable Ed Sullivan. Enjoy the shew!

 

6. Everyone!

Williams’ comedic mind worked at lightning speed. Here, Ellen DeGeneres asks him to whip through a series of different accents, from Swedish to Malawian. He nails them all.

 

7. John Wayne

In this scene from 1996’s The Birdcage, Williams tutors Nathan Lane in the finer points of acting like the Duke.

 

8. Ronald Reagan

President Reagan was also a target of Williams’ in the latter’s iconic 1986 Live at the Met comedy special. Here, he takes on the Gipper during a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live. (One of four times he hosted the show.)

 

9. Al Pacino

In 2007, Williams delivered a tribute speech to his Insomnia co-star Al Pacino, who was being honored by the American Film Institute. Naturally, he couldn’t help but deliver some of Pacino’s iconic lines, from Hoo-ah! to “Say hello to my little friend!”

 

10. Sean Connery, A Hot Dog

This 57-second clip from Ms. Doubtfire features a solid half-dozen impressions, including Sean Connery as James Bond and, sure, a frankfurter. Is there also a snatch of Walter Huston from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre?

11. George W. Bush

Dubya had one of the most distinct vocal cadences of modern-era Presidents. Williams slides in and out of the impression in this clip, from a televised comedy special, but he’s got the distinctly reedy vocal tone and slightly oblivious delivery down pat.

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12. Elmer Fudd (as Bruce Springsteen)

Did you ever wonder what Elmer Fudd would sound like singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire”? Thanks to Williams, now you know.

 

13. Popeye

 

As the title character in Robert Altman’s 1980 version of Popeye, Williams clearly, and accurately, cribbed from the vocal template of the original cartoon Popeye voice actor, Jack Mercer.

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