Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Kerry Ferris
Kerry Ferris

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More info: The Next Best Thing  

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

May 29, 2007

Tip sheet for feature and TV editors/writers

Why people impersonate celebrities
and why fans line up to see fakes

DeKalb, Ill. — Kerry Ferris, a professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University, sees a hint of irony in the title of ABC’s new show The Next Best Thing: Who is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator?, which premieres with a two-hour special Wednesday night.

Ferris studies the sociology of fame and is one of the few researchers on celebrity impersonators. She says “the next best thing” might best describe the career path of many real-life impersonators. Most are first and foremost entertainers who capitalize on their resemblances to the famous in order to get work.

“They happen to look like someone else and decide to take advantage of it,” Ferris says. “For many, it’s just a way to get a job as actors, dancers, singers or comedians. Who you impersonate depends on who you look like, not who you like.”

Ferris has interviewed celebrity impersonators, attended performances and talked with audience members. She also has attended the annual Celebrity Impersonators Convention in Las Vegas , which she likens to a sociology conference, “except everyone is in costume.”

Impersonators make celebrities more accessible to the public, Ferris says. Fans may never get a chance to see Elton or Elvis, so they also settle for “the next best thing.”

Ferris is available for media interviews. Among the topics she can discuss:

  • The most impersonated celebrities.
  • How members of the audience also are doing an impersonation of sorts.
  • The history of celebrity impersonators.
  • Today’s celebrity-infatuated public.
  • The livelihood of celebrity impersonation.
  • Why some impersonators don’t strive for perfect imitations.

For an interview with Ferris, contact Tom Parisi at (815) 753-3635 or