Best Face Forward

Best Face Forward

Comedian-impressionist Gordie Brown keeps tuning his take-offs
By Josh Bell

Golden Nugget 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Sat., $25-$65 plus tax and fee, show and buffet package available. 702.386.8100

Gordie Brown wants his voice heard. That may seem like an odd thing to say about a guy who spends 90 minutes on the microphone in front of an audience five nights a week, but the thing about Brown is that the voice he uses is rarely his own. His show at the Golden Nugget is a dizzying parade of impressions, with Brown both speaking and singing in the voices of dozens of celebrities, taking the audience through pop-culture history from the Rat Pack to Green Day. And while Brown is a gifted impressionist, he’s also a singer, musician and comedian in his own right, who recently put together an album, As I Am.

“It’s got to happen the right way,” Brown said of his ascension as an original performer. “I’m waiting to get to my highest point, and I don’t feel that I’m there yet.”

If Brown isn’t at his highest point, though, he’s pretty darn close. He’s been performing in Vegas since 1989, when he debuted as a 20-minute interlude in another entertainer’s magic show. From that point, Brown built up a reputation as a master impressionist and an energetic performer, and he’s been a permanent fixture in town since 2004. “I always knew I was headed back here,” Brown said, invoking idols like Paul Anka and Rich Little, who inspired him to want to see his own name on a Vegas marquee. The Montreal native started doing impressions in 1983, when his take on Michael Jackson won him a contest and led to regular gigs at a club in Ottawa.

“When I decided to do impressions, it was a magical time musicwise,” Brown said. “There were a few dozen (artists) that were on top of the charts at all times. You got a lot of bang for the buck back then.” Now, he said, he has to work harder to keep up with what’s popular. “It’s so fragmented. You put in a lot of effort, and it’s short-lived.” The ephemeral nature of pop culture led Brown to broaden his act, and now he’s more likely to twist a popular song into a comedic parody, making the material his own and keeping it from becoming dated. “I like the extra ingredient in terms of comedy plus impressions,” he said. “I find the funny as much as I can.”

Of course, some impressions are timeless, and Brown still features Michael Jackson in his show, along with legends like Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley. “It’s amazing how Elvis still is something that the audience absolutely adores,” he said. And when it comes to revered icons, Brown can switch from parody to tribute with ease. Those mixes—classic and contemporary, humor and respect—are the hallmarks of Brown’s show. He may still be working to hone his own voice, but as he said, “I feel like at this time in my career I’m doing everything in the show that I absolutely love to do.”