STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
After teaming up with fellow 94 WIP personality Big Daddy Graham Nov. 5 for “Two Funny Philly Guys — and Their Daughters” at the Media Theatre, what’s voice impression comedian Joe Conklin do for an encore?
How about two Saturday night shows Nov. 19 at Sellersville Theater?
“Sellersville might be my favorite theater to work … they treat us like we’re real musicians or something,” Conklin said in a phone interview.
Marking 30 years as an entertainer this year — he started out as the character voice specialist for morning DJ “Motormouth” Terry Young at former Philly radio station Hot Hits 98.1 WCAU — Conklin is probably best known for his impressions of sports figures.
“I’m pretty sure it was because I grew up in a sports household,” he said, remembering that when he started doing impressions of his uncles when he was 5 or 6 years old (Conklin’s relatives are the inspiration behind some of the morning show characters he does on WIP), imitating his school teachers and sports announcers Howard Cosell, Harry Kalas, Marv Albert and Keith Jackson wasn’t far behind.
One key to Conklin’s skill as a mimic must be his recall ability. Remembering it as if it was recent history, Conklin said his first public performance was a benefit talent show for Catholic Charities Appeal when he was in seventh-grade. He did impressions of actors John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, of George C. Scott in character as Gen. George Patton and of Bob Clarke and Bernie Parent, who at the time had just won a Stanley Cup championship with the Flyers.
One Philly pro athlete Conklin has his sights on imitating in the future is the 76ers’ Joel Embiid. “I’m trying to get his voice without being offensive,” he said. “He could be the next Wilt Chamberlain.”
Besides his lampooning of athletes, coaches and announcers — which has landed him national exposure on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” “The NBA on TNT” and “NFL Films” videos — Conklin’s arsenal of voices also includes Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Check out audio bits that imagine Trump interacting with Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton and President Obama, all voiced by Conklin, at https://soundcloud.com/joe-conklin.
“He’s definitely an in-demand voice,” Conklin said, mentioning the laughs his Trump impression got at an October show at Parx Casino. “But it’s like I’m sick of him. He’s so over the top, you can’t even exaggerate what he says. He’s a fun guy to parody.”
As for what topics he might get into on stage on the 19th, Conklin said the shows are going to be “read and react” depending on what happens with the election.
Conklin first started getting name recognition during the 1993 World Series with his WIP — then at 610-AM — parody song “Yo Canada.” “The (Toronto) Blue Jays couldn’t get a hotel in Philly. They had to go to West Conshohocken. It was like a dis,” he said.
Parody songs have been part of his shtick “forever.” “The first song we did was a parody of — do you remember that song ‘Walk Like an Egyptian?’ It was ‘Talk Like a Philadelphian’,” Conklin said.
Since then, Conklin’s musical comedy has broadened considerably with the singing contributions of his daughter, Casey, who works in the finance industry. It means he can take hits by Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and give them laugh-out-loud, sports-centric lyrics. See https://soundcloud.com/casey-conklin.
“(WIP morning host) Angelo (Cataldi) started asking for her (to sing) like she was an employee (of the station),” Conklin laughed. “I wouldn’t wish entertainment on my worst enemy as a career.”
“I have to credit the sports fanatics for my impact. Seventy-five percent of people over 50 in the five-county area have some kind of sports sense,” he said. “I don’t know if it would be the same level of effectiveness in any other market. The civic pride here with the sports is nuts. They’re so fanatical about the Eagles and the Phillies. We are the complaint department in sports radio, but you have to care in order to complain. If you look back, the most impactful times (of my comedy) were when (the teams) were winning.”
Is there anything that isn’t in this guy’s comedian toolbox? “I can’t rap, man. I’ve tried it a couple times,” he said.