Alistair McGowan cuts back on his impressions

Alistair McGowan is now a keen musician - solent/solent

Alistair McGowan is cutting back his work as an impressionist because younger audiences watch so little television that they do not recognise the stars he is impersonating.

The 58-year-old is one of Britain’s best-known impressionists, taking on famous names from the King to David Beckham.

On his BBC One show in the 2000s, The Big Impression, he mimicked presenters such as Sir Terry Wogan and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, as well as notable public figures of the time including Sir Tony Blair and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

However, times have changed, as young people spend more time on social media and influencers take the place of television celebrities familiar to millions.

‘Less interested’

The entertainer told Scots Magazine: “I still do some live shows but that is drawing to a close now as I am not feeling motivated enough.

“When I have done certain events recently, I have noticed that younger audiences just don’t watch television in the way they used to.

“The younger audience particularly has no idea who these people are, so my whole methodology doesn’t really work for a modern audience.

“It works for an audience my age or above, and for those I am very happy to dust off my old impressions and throw in a few new ones. But it has gotten harder and I am less interested.”

McGowan does only occasional impression work these days for specific projects. He lends his voice to a new documentary, My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock, which imagines the director speaking about his films from beyond the grave.

McGowan explained: “If I have spare time, before I would sit in front of a television show and watch people and think about impersonating, but now I’ll sit in front of the piano.

“Things do still come in – the Hitchcock job was wonderful. And if I need to work on a voice, I will.

“If they come in, I’ll do them, but I’m not trying to perfect the latest football manager, like I would do in the old days.”

Alistair McGowan as John McEnroe with Tim Henman at a celebrity tennis tournament in London in 2004 - Shutterstock/Shutterstock

McGowan returned to playing the piano a decade ago, releasing two albums and playing at the Proms.

Last year, he went on tour with The Piano Show, in which he played 13 pieces interspersed with his trademark impressions.

Earlier this year, he staged a piano festival near his home in Ludlow, Shropshire, featuring performances by Jo Brand and Katie Derham, among others.

“I didn’t realise classical piano music had always been a passion but I did play as a boy and had always thought I must go back to it and I did try once or twice,” he said.

“But it was only when my career in television and radio started to dry up that I had a lot more time and I thought now was the time to do it.”

He has also worked extensively in theatre, earning an Olivier Award nomination for his role as a demon dentist in a West End production of Little Shop of Horrors.