When people at social functions find out that Jason Kaye does impressions, they often ask him to perform.
It’s not that other people can’t alter their voices to sound like politicians or other celebrities, he said. But impressions require more than vocal manipulation.
“The most important thing is the point of view of the character,” he said. “Anybody can sound like Bill Clinton, but if you don’t know the point of view of the character Bill Clinton, then you’re stuck with just saying phrases like ‘sexual relations.’ You’ve got to put Bill Clinton in a situation.”
Kaye, a Santa Monica native, has found an even better outlet for his talents than parties. He’s a contestant on “First Impressions,” a competition televised by USA Network, and the episode featuring him is scheduled to air May 31 at 10:30 p.m.
It’s another step forward in a budding entertainment career for Kaye, who has dabbled in acting, comedy and voiceover work since graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2010.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, Kaye attended Canyon Charter School for kindergarten and Marquez Elementary School for grades 1-3 before landing at Crossroads School for the remainder of his K-12 education.
Growing up, Kaye would watch daytime reruns of “Saturday Night Live.” He said he remembers being impressed by the vocal adaptability of Dana Carvey, who is now featured on “First Impressions.”
Kaye also recalled impersonating his grandfather well enough to gain access to his grandfather’s voice-activated carphone.
“I’d make prank calls as him,” he said.
While studying music composition in college, Kaye took part in a collaboration between music and acting students on a musical that he helped write. The project also gave him an avenue for testing his acting skills, which he did by playing a Russian character. It gave him “the acting bug.”
Although Kaye liked playing music — he stills rocks out to Van Halen and Dimebag Darrell licks on his guitar — he said he enjoyed doing comedy even more. So he started taking classes through Upright Citizens Brigade and gained further experience in accents and impressions at The Second City in Hollywood. He’s currently honing his craft at Groundlings to keep his skillset diverse and widely applicable.
“If comedy was a martial art, you don’t want to just know jiu-jitsu or karate,” he said. “You want to learn all of them. It’s important to check out all the places.”
Through iO West, another sketch comedy and improv outlet, Kaye heard that “First Impressions” was looking for possible contestants and submitted his materials. The show was taped in February.
Kaye said his favorite celebrity to impersonate is Albert Brooks, an award-winning actor and comedian. He can also swing impressions of politicians, which tend to increase in popularity during an election cycle.
“Honestly, anybody can do Donald Trump,” he said. “Make your voice a little nasally, put your lips out and say something like, ‘This is gonna be huge.’”