Few things on the World Wide Web make me laugh as much as Charlie Hides’ weekly YouTube videos. They may only last a few minutes, but the outrageous celebrity impersonator recreates what all fans of pop music have longed to see- just pure diva mayhem, with name-calling, wigs and egos. In each video Charlie emulates music divas and does it flawlessly. He captures Madonna’s smirks and her English accent, while reminding the world of her loathing for hydrangeas and Lady Gaga and helping Malawi as “a tax-break.” Cher’s voice and mannerisms are hilarious, as the aging diva reminds everyone that she is an Oscar winner, following her signature line “Whoooo?”
You see a startling Liza Minelli attempting internet fads, such as ‘planking’ or ‘milking’ and usually getting hurt along the way. Recently Charlie has impersonated a dazed and confused Lana Del Rey, who spews out philosophical nonsense and explains her pout as a result of a peanut allergy. The cherry on top is that Charlie’s videos are fresh of a scandal; we see Madonna’s daughter Lourdes being grounded following her smoking incident and we see Mariah Carey and Nicky Minaj having a rap battle. However there is wacky and wonderful snippets, which leave fans thirsty for more; there is Madonna trying to seduce Harry Styles by reminding him “everything is ok under the hood,” Gaga admitting to wearing vagina wigs and Cher reminding the novice divas that she performed on Noah’s Ark.
After watching for mere minutes, you immediately believe you really are watching Cher or Madonna. The wigs, make-up and celebrity inspired clothing makes Charlie’s videos just that much more realistic and like the divas he emulates he too is a perfectionist, perhaps without Kabbalah or an Oscar.
I had the privilege of asking him a few questions about his life as a performer and his hilarious videos. Underneath all the diva drama, he is a sweet and optimistic man albeit with a self-confessed dark sense of humour, who has built a rapport with his fans and continues to make thousands laugh.
Charlie, can you talk us through the production of one of your CHTV videos?
Most weeks I don’t decide what the week’s video will be till Monday, I usually have several ideas and I scan the news to see if Mariah Carey has slapped Nicki Minaj or if Madonna’s gotten naked in concert and then I do a quick re-write to incorporate some current events if they fit into one of my ideas. On Monday night, I plan out the shoot, set up the camera and lights, gather props and choose costumes so that I can start filming on Tuesday. I get up early and work through the day, depending on the number of characters I’m playing it can be a LONG day. I edit late into the night. Usually the finished video is uploaded in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Sometimes I take a cat nap on the office floor at 5 AM, while the video is uploading to YouTube. Once a video has gone live I post it on my Facebook page, send out a tweet then go to bed tired but happy.
Have you always been a performer?
Yes, I was in all the school plays, sang in the choir and started doing stand-up comedy as a teenager, sneaking out of the house when my parents were asleep to go to open mic nights etc. I got addicted to the sound of applause and laughter at a very young age.
You are a superstar in your own right, but were there days when you felt your dream or passion was silly or pointless? What helped you overcome any doubt?
I’m far from being a superstar but I’ve always been a dreamer and sometimes enjoy the dream more than the reality. Like when I used to make sand castles as a kid, the vision of what it was going to look like was very real to me, I loved the process of working to make it become real so that everyone else could see what was in my head… once it was done, I’d stand back, admire it for a few minutes then walk away, ready for the next project or dream… dreaming is the point… but you also have got to get your hands and feet moving. I’ve never felt that dreaming was silly, when I got told off as a kid for being a “day dreamer” I remember thinking, what’s going on in my head is way more interesting than this boring math class.
As for doubt, I just put things into perspective. What’s the worst that can happen if something goes wrong? I’m not going to become homeless if a joke doesn’t get a laugh or if someone tells me I make an ugly Lana Del Rey.
What have you learned about yourself through making CHTV videos?
I’ve learned a lot. That I can work to a deadline and that I work well under pressure. That challenging myself is good for me. I’ve always been a workaholic but now I’m learning the importance of making time for family and friends, I’m learning to balance.
You manage to flawlessly emulate the signature mannerisms of the divas. Growing up and listening to them, what lessons have they taught you?
I’ve seen careers have ups and downs and I’ve seen incredibly talented people try new things and get slated by the press or get praised for being innovative but the ones I admire the most keep taking risks and keep growing as artists. So I take risks and keep trying to grow. None of the entertainers I admire sit back and wait for things to happen. They work hard at their art.
Is there a potential celebrity event or feud or scandal you would love to see happen, so you can feature it in your videos?
Oh, every day when I scan the news feeds I’m hoping one of the celebs I’ve impersonated has done something outrageous, like run down Broadway naked, or has had a nip slip on the red carpet …is that wrong of me?
Even though you poke fun at the divas, it’s clear that it comes from a place of love and admiration, instead of slander. How careful do you have to be?
I do censor myself, I have quite a dark sense of humor (see my live show sometime.) During the writing process and sometimes after I’ve filmed something I will cut a harsh line or bit that I think has gone too far, it’s a balancing act. Comedy needs a bit of a sting but I don’t want to be cruel. Often I’m holding a mirror up to silly behavior and pointing out the very human things that superstars do. We all have fears, doubts and insecurities and they manifest themselves in funny ways. By putting the celebs into surreal situations it should be clear that these are comical versions of the celebrities and not meant to be taken too seriously. I’m a comedian not a documentarian.
Q8) If you could have coffee with one of the divas, who would it be and why?
That’s easy, Cher- for a multitude of reasons. She’s funny, a great humanitarian, has had so many adventures and career highs and lows that we could talk about for hours. She has a no nonsense attitude towards life but her late night tweets indicate she’s just batty enough to be interesting and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.
You are such a positive and upbeat individual, what inspires you and makes you happy?
I’m inspired by lots of things, music, art, comedy, design… you name it. I love old movies, coffee table art books, second hand shops and the latest couture collections, current pop music and rock classics. Creating makes me happy, the process that begins with having an idea then working till it becomes real makes me happy. Meeting creative people and going places I’ve never been makes me happy. Plus, every day I get to wake up beside the funniest, nicest, kindest guy in the world. He’s my biggest fan, harshest critic and best friend. Hearing him laugh makes me VERY happy.
What is an interesting fact about you, your followers might not know?
That I love to garden. I can spend hours in the garden, pottering about, weeding, planting, pruning, raking. I get lost in my head and find it very relaxing. It’s the polar opposite of performing and being on stage and it helps me recharge. I also get some of my best ideas while my hands are busy transplanting seedlings or trimming the hedges.