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Alistair Charles McGowan (born 24 November 1964) is an English impressionist, comic, actor, singer and writer best known to British audiences for The Big Impression (formerly Alistair McGowan's Big Impression), which was, for four years, one of BBC1's top-rating comedy programmes – winning numerous awards, including a BAFTA in 2003. He has also worked extensively in theatre and appeared in the West End in Art, Cabaret, The Mikado and Little Shop of Horrors (for which he received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination). As a television actor, he played the lead role in BBC1's Mayo. He wrote the play Timing (nominated as Best New Comedy at the whatsonstage.com awards) and the book A Matter of Life and Death or How to Wean Your Man off Football with former comedy partner Ronni Ancona. He also provided voices for Spitting Image.
|Birth name||Alistair Charles McGowan|
24 November 1964 |
Evesham, Worcestershire, England
|Medium||Television, radio and stand-up|
|Genres||Impressions, sketch comedy|
|Notable works and roles||The Big Impression
You Cannot Be Serious
Early life and educationEdit
McGowan was born in Evesham, Worcestershire, to Marion and George McGowan. Although they knew that their father had been born in Calcutta, India, Alistair and his sister Kay were unaware that their father had an ethnically Anglo-Indian background until McGowan explored his ancestry on BBC One's Who Do You Think You Are? programme in an episode broadcast on 26 October 2007, four years after his father's death.
McGowan attended the Simon de Montfort Middle School in Evesham, where he took lead roles in school productions, and went on to Evesham High School. He graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA English degree in 1986. He then went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, graduating in 1989.
McGowan is a supporter of Leeds United, even claiming that he decided to study at Leeds partly because of its proximity to Elland Road, and Coventry City, the team closest to the area where he spent his late teens,and his interest in football forms the basis of his 2009 book A Matter of Life and Death. On 17 December 2012 edition of Countdown, Susie Dent revealed that McGowan neither owns a car nor drives.
McGowan found work as a comedian, and did some of the voices for the ITV television series Spitting Image. His sporting impressions were showcased on the BBC 2 football magazine programme Sick as a Parrot. He also appeared as the recycling man in the BBC show Think about Science.
Later he took over from Stephen Tompkinson playing Spock in the Tim Firth comedy drama, Preston Front. In his early career, McGowan had minor roles in shows such as Children's Ward, and in the pilot episode of Jonathan Creek. He also starred in the first series of Dead Ringers.
McGowan also appeared in the Scottish football sketch show Only an Excuse? from 1996 to 1998. He also hosted and starred in a sporting impressions show on Radio 5 live called The Game's Up in the late 1990s.
McGowan was a part of BBC TV Series 24 Hours in the Past, along with Colin Jackson, Miquita Oliver, Ann Widdecombe, Tyger Drew-Honey and Zoe Lucker. The 4 part series was aired from 28 April till 19 May 2015 on BBC 1
The Big ImpressionEdit
He is best known for his work with Jan Ravens and Ronni Ancona on The Big Impression, formerly Alistair McGowan's Big Impression. McGowan has a repertoire of well over one hundred impersonations many of which have been covered on Alistair McGowan's Big Impression.
The most popular and regular include David Beckham, Sven-Göran Eriksson, Gary Lineker, Nicky Campbell, Richard Madeley, Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Angus Deayton, Terry Wogan and the fictional characters Ross Geller (from Friends) and Dot Cotton (from EastEnders).
McGowan and Ronni Ancona are probably best known for their portrayal of Posh and Becks with McGowan exaggerating David Beckham's perceived lack of intelligence and Ancona exaggerating the role of "Posh Spice" (Victoria Beckham) with pouting lips. As the Beckhams' style of dress regularly changed – in particular David's changing haircuts – McGowan adapted his costumes and style accordingly. In later years he developed his portrayal of Beckham into a brainiac infuriated by Posh's lack of intelligence.
Return to acting and radio work (2005)Edit
He made a return to dramatic acting in 2005, appearing in the BBC's adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel Bleak House. He also appeared at the Chichester Festival Theatre in two plays; the first was a new translation of Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector by Alistair Beaton, the second was a new play called 5/11, which was produced to mark the 400 year anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. In 2006 he starred in the detective series Mayo. He also presented an episode of Have I Got News For You on 20 October 2006. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company for the Christmas 2006 season playing Mr Page in Merry Wives: the Musical (a version of The Merry Wives of Windsor) opposite Judi Dench, Simon Callow and Haydn Gwynne.
Despite his acting commitments, he has still continued a successful career of celebrity impersonator on the BBC Radio and also did re-voicing of video footages of 'The Sports Review of the Year' and Match of the Day which has turned him into a sideline sporting celebrity. Two releases of 'Alistair McGowan's Football Backchat' were best sellers in both comedy and sports video charts.
In 2007 McGowan starred as the dentist (and other, smaller characters) in the West End transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory's revival of Little Shop of Horrors, and filmed My Life in Ruins, an American comedy film set in the ruins of ancient Greece. In 2008 he made his directing debut at Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Noël Coward's classic comedy Semi-Monde.
In January and February 2008 McGowan starred as the eponymous protagonist of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan, in a revival by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. On 21 April 2008 he took over the role of Emcee in Cabaret at London's Lyric Theatre. In July of that year he appeared in a revival of They're Playing Our Song at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Alistair appeared as a host on one episode of the fifth series of Live at the Apollo, which aired on 1 January 2010.
McGowan appeared in Skins in February 2011. He played Nick's coach in the fifth episode of the new series. On 12 March 2011 he played the part of the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, at the Barbican Hall, London. and, later in the year, took over from Rupert Everett the part of Henry Higgins in Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre, opposite Kara Tointon as Eliza Doolittle. In April 2011,he took to the stage at the Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts Centre at the University of Nottingham in David Mamet's controversial drama Oleanna. Also in 2011 he co-starred in the CBBC series Leonardo as Piero di Cosimo de' Medici. On 9 June 2011 he was unveiled as the newest addition to the BBC Wimbledon commentary team.
In 2013 McGowan embarked on a fifty-date stand-up tour in his show Not Just A Pretty Voice. He also took part, with Eddie Izzard, in the first ever stand-up show performed by two English comics totally in French in Sheffield. His voice appeared in the film The Unbeatables.
In October 2014 McGowan narrated, in the guise of Eric Satie, a concert of surrealist ballet music from Paris in the 1920s, given by the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and broadcast live by BBC Radio 3.
McGowan serves as an ambassador to WWF-UK, part of the global World Wide Fund for Nature, and campaigns on a number of environmental issues. He is a patron of the urban tree-planting charity Trees for Cities.
In 2004 he launched 'the BIG recycle' national campaign urging public to reduce rubbish by recycling it. In August 2006 he appeared on Steve Wright's BBC Radio 2 show to appeal to listeners to be more energy aware.In June 2007 he appeared on the James Whale Show on Talksport to also talk this issue.
In January 2009 it was announced that McGowan in partnership with three other Greenpeace activists, including actress Emma Thompson, had bought land near Sipson, Middlesex, a village under threat from the proposed third runway for Heathrow Airport. It is hoped that the area of ground, half the size of a football pitch, will prevent the government from carrying through its plan to expand Heathrow. The field, bought for an undisclosed sum from a local land owner, will be split into small squares and sold across the globe. When interviewed Mr McGowan said: "BAA were so confident of getting the Government's go ahead, but we have cunningly bought the land they need to build their runway."
In 2009 he attended the Bromley Environmental Awards and was the celebrity guest at Bromley Civic Centre where the awards were presented to various schools in the borough.
- ElvenQuest, radio 2009, as Lord Darkness
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- the guardian 5 October 2017 [permanent dead link]
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- Masters, Tim (2015-06-07). "Jimmy Savile: critics hail Alistair McGowan's role as 'revolting' DJ - BBC News". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
- Matilda Battersby (2014-06-11). "An Audience with Jimmy Savile: Victim felt 'quite unwell' watching Alistair McGowan's 'uncanny' portrayal of paedophile DJ - News - Theatre & Dance". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
- Lawrence, Ben. "An Audience with Jimmy Savile, Park Theatre, review: 'merely depressing'". Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
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- "UK | England | London | Protesters buy up Heathrow land". BBC News. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
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- "Alistair McGowan becomes a Patron of the Friends of Brandwood End Cemetery". Friends of Brandwood End Cemetery. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.