Why SNL’s Kanye West Impersonator Chris Redd Hates Being Called An Impressionist

Chris Redd is a renowned stand-up comedian. For those of us who are privy to his work, “stand-up comic” might not be the first descriptor that comes to mind, as he also just ended a great five-season run on Saturday Night Live. Aside from his comedic musical stints, which won him an Emmy for “Come Back, Barack,” he also became known as an impressionist on the show, namely for his absurd and hilarious depiction of the infamous Kanye West. Ye may not have liked the impression, but as it turns out, neither did Redd, as he doesn’t see himself as an impressionist at all.

I recently caught up with Chris Redd to talk about his HBO Max special, Why Am I Like This? When I brought up his rather solid Ye impression, he said this:

The act of being an impressionist is not interesting to me. It wasn't interesting to me because, telling jokes and getting the characters right, all of that was way more - It's the Richards, it’s the Daves. Eddie was good at both, you know, I'm saying, narrative storytelling with like a joke rate, with a high joke rate is way more important to me than sounding like a guy just to sound like him. SNL gave me a really dope appreciation for being an impressionist, and I try to be as honest as I could… people were still on my ass when I missed the mark on impressions and I was like, ‘I don't do this! I'm doing the best I can, bitch!’

If you watch Why Am I Like This? Redd’s statements make a lot of sense. He may do voices and embody characters, but he does not do any impressions. With a show like SNL, where the cast is limited, they expect a lot of their performers, and Redd found himself in a position where he had to create impressions that he would have otherwise never included in his comedy. They didn’t lay it on too thick, and probably clung to Ye because of his pop-culture relevance. And, of course, because Redd’s ‘Ye sounds’ are hilarious. Other than that, he often portrayed more B-list pop-culture figures in his various music videos, and once appeared as a member of The Black Eyed Peas.

His mentioning of folks like Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor implies that he is more interested in telling personal stories than doing downright impersonations. That’s not the only thing he and Chappelle have in common, as they were both victims of a recent attack. Not to worry, as Redd has received surgery and he is fine. He’s even in good spirits about it, telling me, “the knock on the face made me more determined!”

Chris Redd may have left SNL on his own volition, but even Lorne Michaels thinks it’s a good thing. There seems to be no ill-will towards the show and, in the process, he even got some perspective regarding the impressionists he never wanted to be. He went on to say this:

I will say the same thing, the other side of it, like people calling me an impressionist, this was so flattering because I just felt like I was just doing all right, you know what I mean? But I found in the last year, I really just had a lot of fun doing them. And so I was like, any impression I can have fun with, I think I can knock out the park. Even if I'm off the mark, I know I can find the comedy in it. And so I just I have a lot of respect for impressionists, a lot more than I did before.

You can see Why Am I Like This? on HBO Max right now! The special is hilarious and gives you some cathartic insight regarding the mental health of a comedian. If you want to check it out for yourself, there’s plenty of options to acquire an HBO Max subscription.

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff started his career producing television commercials in his hometown of Fresno, California. After a few years, he came across the opportunity to make a living talking about his favorite thing: movies. Jeff is a film buff who is full of gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.