You might not know the name Luke Kempner yet, but you might have seen some of his work.
If you watch the brilliant Murder In Successville on BBC Three, he’s the one doing impressions of Jeremy Kyle, Daniel Radcliffe, Andy Murray and more.
He had his own show at the end of last year on ITV2, Luke Kempner’s Impression of 2015 and if you’re a fan of Big Brother you’ve probably seen him on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side taking Twitter by storm with his impressions of the housemates. Not least of all Dawn French who described him as "a blummin genius” - high praise indeed!
As well as being super talented, Luke is a genuinely nice guy, so he was only too willing when I asked if he wanted to have a chat about his upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show.
Luke can’t wait to marry Judi Dench. But has Britain's most celebrated thespian only been acting like she's in love? Will they be getting a honeymoon room with a view or is Luke's sky about to fall? Our hero is joined by a stellar cast of celebrities on a quest in the name of love.
What came first? The show or the title?
Well, the first show I wrote was called The Only Way is Downton, a title that was very important but it never actually had my name in the title. I felt that this Edinburgh was the first time that I was going to be Luke Kempner, and not the Downton guy.
So I had this idea that I was going to be in it, and then I came up with the idea about me marrying Judi Dench and someone having to sort out mine and Judi Dench’s marriage going wrong because three people object to the wedding.
Jeremy Kyle was the perfect person to sort that out so I had to try and think of a perfect title for a Jeremy Kyle episode, and if it was Judi Dench Broke my Heart - that’s an episode I would want to watch, so that’s where the title came from.
What else can you tell us about the show?
It’s the story of me marrying Judi Dench and at the wedding three people object, and luckily it’s a big celebrity wedding so Jeremy Kyle puts his hand up and says that he’ll sort it out and find out what happened. Has Judi cheated on me? Has she not? If she has, why has she done it?
We go on different shows like Sunday Brunch, The Chase, we meet Louis Theroux and I play over 32 characters. By the end of the show we find out exactly what Judi was doing and you’ll find out whether we’ll get a happy ever after or not.
Where did the inspiration come from for the show?
The way I do impressions and characters is that I think about who hasn’t been done before? And if they have been done before, is there a new angle I can take?
For example, I did Russell Brand in the first series of Murder in Successville and deciding whether or not to put someone like him in the show is difficult because he’s kind of stepped out of the public eye a little bit. If you are going to do him, do you do the Russell Brand from ten years ago or do you do the more intense and political Russell?
I try to find people that I think are really current and that I can do a new spin on, or an original spin on someone that has been done before. For example, in the show I do Tim Lovejoy which hasn’t really been done before, I do The Chase as well so I try to pick things that people have not done before.
You mention that you do 32 different characters. Can you give us any more names?
My two best mates are in there, Andy Murray and Tom Daley who are there to support me through The Jeremy Kyle Show. You’ve also got Frankie Boyle who is going to be the councillor on the show and Alan Carr is the security guard.
There are lots of different characters in it, and a few that play my different family members as well but I’ll keep some secret.
Is there anyone you’ve tried to do an impression of but can’t?
I always think there’s something you can do. Even with Big Brother, there are some contestants who are harder because, and I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but you have to find something interesting about someone’s voice.
I don’t like doing people that I don’t like. People that I like and am excited by, they’re the people I find easiest to do.
I’ve always found Piers Morgan incredibly hard to do and even David Cameron I’ve found quite hard to do. I don’t struggle often because I think if you do work hard enough, you will find something.
One thing that amazed me watching you on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side, is that we’d only known these housemates for a few weeks and already you’d nailed the impressions. How long does an impression take to perfect?
Well the thing about Big Brother is that they cast such huge characters, and even the smaller characters are all in there for a reason. Also, what we get to see cut together is their best bits. The most interesting bits, so it sort of makes it a bit easier because I normally have to watch about three hours of someone on YouTube, but with Big Brother all the best bits are all cut down into one hour, so that’s why Big Brother is slightly easier.
Usually, I suppose it would take me a couple of days - a day of working on it, and then sleeping on that impression and the next day coming back to it, walking around my front room just free-styling as the character and seeing what comes up.
Others can take slightly longer, like Judi Dench is taking a little while, especially because in my Downton show I played Maggie Smith for two-and-a-half years so it’s very hard to shake that out. People who know my other show will probably come up to me and go “you sounded just like Maggie Smith” and I’ll be like “No. There are subtle differences, I promise!” (Laughs)
How have the previews been going?
They’ve been good! It’s been going down well, there’s still a little way to go. By July I wanted to be at the sort of 8/10 point in my head, and I don’t think I’m quite there but I’m working with a guy called Ben Clark who’s from the sketch group Pappy’s, who's directing my show and we’re doing a lot more work together now and I think he’ll take the show to the next level.
It’s coming along, still about a month to go. The other thing is, that I’ve been really busy with Big Brother which takes up a lot of time and I’m also in Tracey Ullman’s Show and Murder In Successville, so all these things are great but it’s meant that I’ve not had as much time to really really concentrate on the Edinburgh show.
But the end of July I’ve got a good two weeks to put all the finishing touches and I’m really excited.
How important is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to you?
Hugely important. Especially this year for me is such an important year because I did The Only Way Is Downton in 2013 and then I went back to Downton in 2014, I then went to America and Canada and did all these wonderful things, but it meant I wasn’t doing a new show.
I’ve only really got in amongst the comedy circuit from about January of this year, and I’ve had to learn very very quickly. But this year, me being in it as a character, me doing stand-up in it as well, it sort of feels like my debut year. Even though it isn’t, it feels like my debut year because there’s certainly three years of experience in it and you actually get to see me. Whereas before I was just playing characters from Downton Abbey and other TV shows.
Does that make it more or less nerve-wracking?
Really nerve-wracking. Especially because I’ve got a lot of experience, but not a lot of experience in the comedy circuit, and the comedy circuit is all about learning your trade and earning your stripes, so it felt like starting school again, having done three years of school already.
It’s been hard, and there’s a stigma attached that I’ve had an easy way in, but I’m telling you, it is incredibly hard. But I work really hard and I never rest on my laurels. For me it’s all about if you’re not succeeding in something, you’ve got to keep working at it and keep coming up with new ideas.
It’s come a long way since January, this show was going to be a story of Andy Murray getting married to Adele, and now it’s about me marrying Judi Dench!
You’re about to get married yourself, congratulations - How does Alana feel about you marrying Judi Dench on stage?
Do you know what, she’s not seen too much of it. But I did tell her about it, because some of the stuff where I talk about Judi and how we met, all of that is how me and Alana met... to a certain degree! How we fell in love, and all that sort of thing, because the best comedy is all based on truth and what gets the best laughs come when the audience can see that it’s coming from my brain.
I think that’s really funny to play with. Whereas in the Downton show, you can’t really do that as much because you’re trying to parody storylines that already exist. What’s exciting is that people who have seen me before will be able to see a progression to what I do now.
Alana’s been great with it, she’s not seen the show yet because I want her to wait until nearer to the Fringe, but I’m sure her and Judi would get on fine!
Have you ever met Judi Dench?
I’ve met her very very briefly when I was about thirteen. S he came to see a production of Dracula Spectacular at Oakwood School in Horley and did the raffle. I played a made-up character called Zac, because there wasn’t enough parts for me, and she said “Well done” so I’m sure she’ll remember! (Laughs)
You mention that you’re working with Tracey Ullman at the moment. She does a great impression of Judi Dench, have you spoken to her about the Fringe show?
She does! I’ve not spoken to her about it yet, but I’m in two of the Judi Dench sketches so I will have a conversation with her. There’s always that unwritten thing with impressionists not to do other people’s characters, but my version of Judi is obviously played by a 29-year-old man, so it’s quite different to Tracey's!
Hers is amazing but I’ve tried to do something slightly different with it. But I’m excited to do the scene with her and see her all dressed up!
The thing is, you talk to anyone about Judi Dench and they go “Oh I love Judi”, because you do. I’ve read her book and watched documentaries about her, and it’s not that she’s a soft touch, because she works hard and knows her own mind, but she’s just perfect.
Outside of the Fringe then, apart from Big Brother and Tracey Ullman’s Show, what are you up to?
Tom Davis and I have got some ideas which we’re putting together. The plan is to focus on the Edinburgh show and it’ll be interesting to see what happens after that. But Celebrity Big Brother starts straight after Big Brother so hopefully I’ll be able to do some stuff on that as well.
I did an episode of Episodes which will be coming out. It was insane! Matt LeBlanc was really nice, so warm and really helpful and I was so pleased I got a picture with him. I’m really bad at that, I don’t like asking. But he’s a huge star, if I don’t I would be so annoyed at myself.
It was the day after when I was telling my mum about it that I thought, I can’t believe that I actually hung out with him for like four hours! It still doesn’t really make sense to me. I’m excited for that to come out.
I’ve got to talk about Murder In Successville, I absolutely love that show.
Thank you. I owe a lot to Tom Davis because the Downton show is what Tom saw way back in 2013 when I was doing it in a 49-seater shipping container and Murder In Successville didn’t really come about for a year-and-a-half but Tom rang me up, said he saw the show and would love me to be in this thing.
I read it and I thought, if I don’t get this I need to pretty much give up. Because it wasn’t like an impression sketch show - I mean, you’ve seen it - but it was just something new, something different and there was a real acting element to it which really excited me.
I trained in musical theatre and went to drama school. That’s what I did, for about four years, acting jobs. I was so excited by it and all the way through the process me and Tom have become such good mates. I was at his wedding, he’s coming to mine. He’s become a really good brother/father-figure to me. He’s helped so much and is always there for advice.
If he thinks I’ve done something that’s not very good, he’ll tell me. I owe the guy a lot.
And finally, how would you sum up the show in just five words?
Characterful. Silly. Funny. Fun. Exciting.