The life of an impersonator
Guy Ingle is the UK’s best known Prince Charles impersonator. For over 20 years he's made a living from radio, TV and film appearances as the heir to the throne, including a role in Superhero Movie. He's also a regular on the after-dinner speaking circuit. He reveals the highs and lows of living as someone else
Whenever my parents had parties, I’d entertain everyone – doing Tommy Cooper, playing the piano. But then when I wanted to go into the entertainment business my father wouldn’t let me. So I went to college and studied business management and worked at an engineering company.
I was good at the job but I didn’t like it. So after three-and-a-half years I quit and set up my on my own as an entertainer. I worked a season at Cayton Bay in Scarborough: four and a half months at a holiday camp; four acts a night; seven nights a week. I was a compère, a DJ… you do something different every night of the week.
When I was there people said, “you look a bit like Prince Charles”. I couldn’t really see it, but I realised that there were a lot of look-a-likes who look like somebody but probably can’t sound like them. I wrote to several agencies but they already had a Prince Charles. I’d seen those impersonators and I wasn’t impressed but they didn’t want to know. Then in 1987 I did my first TV bit, Pebble Mill with the comedian Tom O’Connor. I kept persisting with the agencies and then suddenly the work took off.
In acting, you have one agent who goes out there and gets you work, but look-a-likes register with all sorts of agencies. You learn after years of experience who’s good to do business with and who isn’t. My website has helped me get a lot more work. Charles doesn’t have a problem with it. His is princeofwales.gov.uk.
The work I do varies. I’ve done a lot of radio, especially when Prince Charles got engaged. There are plenty of functions, where I do after dinner speaking. The best gig I ever had was going to Hollywood to film Superhero Movie. I only had a minute-and-a-half in the movie, but I was there for nearly four weeks. They treat you like royalty over there if you’re English, so I had it made.
Everybody thinks that TV is glamorous but the reality is that you’re stuck in a room for hours and then they drag you out and stick you in front of the camera. There are really talented people who just lose it when the camera goes on them. But I’m in my element standing up and addressing people.
People use the term “look-a-like” but I call myself an impersonator, because I do the character and voice too. TV tends to consider look-a-likes as talentless individuals, people who are famous because they look like someone. I don’t look like Charles in real life – it’s all make-up and hair-pieces – it’s the impression that counts. Certain characters need more talent than others to impersonate successfully. If you do Prince William, for example, they’ll adore you even if you can’t speak like him. That’s just the way it is.
The character I do is very controversial. Long before I could do Prince Charles I was aware that people thought he was talking nonsense about global warming, but in reality a lot of what he has said in the past has come to pass. When I do functions I get different reactions from people, but usually they’re just happy that they’ve met Prince Charles.
I met him myself a number of years ago. He’s a very charming person. Anyone who’s ever met him will tell you that. When we were introduced he told me, “Good luck to you. One’s got to earn a living”.
Jo Caird was talking to Guy Ingle