The Definitive Guide to Aladdin’s Genie Impressions

7. Arsenio Hall

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As the 1990s were fast approaching, the late night talk show circuit was essentially the domain of one man: Johnny Carson. His Tonight Show had not only stood strong for nearly three decades, Carson had destroyed almost all competitors, most of whom lasted ]less than four years. After subbing in for Joan Rivers on her failed Fox talk show, Arsenio Hall proved to be incredibly popular, and by embracing a younger and more diverse audience, The Arsenio Hall Show was truly the first late night talk show to give Johnny Carson a run for his money starting in 1989.

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Here’s the weird thing: Williams isn’t so much impersonating Hall (in voice, although his face is totally Arsenio) as he’s impersonating Hall’s audience. Arsenio would casually refer to his fans and audience members as things like the “Dog Pound” to which they would respond with a twirling fist pump, shouting “Woof, Woof, Woof!” Arsenio himself almost never did that (see an incredibly tense example below) but it can’t be denied that the call and response will always and forever be associated with him. Thanks in no small part to Aladdin!

8. Mary Hart

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Hard though it may be for a millennial to believe, back in the day there was one place and once place only to go for televised entertainment news: Entertainment Tonight. Mary Hart not only hosted ET for almost 30 years starting in 1982, she also moonlit as a co-host of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which Williams is most undoubtedly parodying here.

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I didn’t even want to write this one, but I swore to myself I’d be DEFINITIVE and many dark circles of the internet think Robin Williams is impersonating Mary Hart here. The thing is, Williams clearly gives these hosts names, “Harry” and “June,” neither of which I can find any record of hosting the Macy’s Parade. If you have any other information, please let me know in the comments as I genuinely never want to devote another ounce of time researching the Macy’s Parade ever again.

9. Peter Lorre

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You probably recognize Peter Lorre imitations from numerous bug-eyed caricatures that have endured throughout animation, appearing even decades after Lorre’s death. Peter Lorre has starred in some of my favorite films. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and he even technically played the first Bond villain in Casino Royale! But yeah, it can’t be denied that throughout most of his career the Hungarian born actor was a bit typecast as the “foreign creep” character.

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I don’t personally know of an occasion where Lorre played a zombie, but his latter day career cast him in plenty of horror movies. And that’s probably why Williams adopted his voice to show Aladdin why it’s a bad idea to wish the dead back to life.

10. Groucho Marx

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At around the time of Aladdin’s release, I was absolutely enthralled with cartoons old and new. (Mostly old, given how time-consuming and prohibitively expensive the theatrical animation process is.) Back then I recognized that Aladdin’s certainly got all the Disney ingredients, but Robin Williams’ celebrity impressions made it feel a lot more Looney Tunes than any movie released in the company’s history. If you require more proof to that end, look no further than William’s impression of Groucho Marx, one of the most caricatured comedians in cartoon history.

Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx was not only one of the most famous comedians in the world, his look was so iconic it forged a best selling novelty disguise you can still buy to this day. Obviously Marx had starred in several successful films alongside his brothers, Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera being two of their most famous. However, Aladdin is clearly a specific reference Marx’s TV game show You Bet Your Life – that duck is a dead giveaway. Spawned on the radio waves, Marx hosted the 1955 quiz show until 1960, when the show was renamed simply The Groucho Marx Show. Fun Fact: In the very same year Aladdin was released, a short-lived revival of You Bet Your Life hit the airwaves hosted by Bill Cosby… you know what? Let’s move on!

11. Jack Nicholson

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Admit it: This is probably the only one of Robin William’s Aladdin impressions you could put a name to. It’s okay! Other than Arsenio, there’s barely an impression on this list that doesn’t date back to before 1970. I can guess around what age you are and I’m sure you would’ve known right away if Williams impersonated anyone else from a Batman movie.

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Anyhoo, this moment is obviously Jack Nicholson and I’m happy to report that, unlike most of the other Genie impressions, he’s still with us. (Although his doddering appearance on SNL’s 40th Anniversary special leads me to believe we might not have much longer with Jackie Boy.) Here’s the most Jack Nicholson scene of all-time.

21 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Aladdin’s Genie Impressions

    1. Nor is he the only one on this list…

      By the way, great article Chris! It really comes across when you throw yourself into the subject.

  1. This was a fantastic article. Thanks for putting time into it. I’ve been watching this when my son and catching impressions as an adult I totally missed as a kid. The GIFs also look good. Nice work!

  2. This was a great article guys. I had a lot of fun learning about some of Robin Williams’ deep cuts. It just makes me miss him all the more. I got a lot of joy out of finding out that there was a Cab Calloway impression in Aladdin. I love the Blue Brothers, and his musical number is iconic and synonymous with the movie. I bothered to look up the release date on Blue Brothers and it so happens to be the 25th anniversary of it’s 1980 release. How about a similar article for all the musical talent that made cameos and had musical numbers in the film? I’d also like to point out that it seems Jeff Dunham may have completely ripped off Senor Wences and just put a racist spin on it. Am I completely off base on my thinking here?

    1. Jesus, never mind. Apparently my math skills suck. Blues Brothers came out 35 years ago. Egg on my face. Please excuse me. Please add an edit feature so I can erase my embarrassment.

  3. As a kid I probably only got the Groucho and Arnold references. Now I know maybe half of them, and the other half I didn’t know where really neat to point out.

  4. I could of sworn at one point the genie did a bob hope impression, I dont know why I always thought this but rewatching it there wasnt any at all. maybe i saw williams doing one in an interview or i’m just going crazy. so glad this article exists because i still wouldve known 100% of his impressions. THIS ARTICLE GETS NO RESPECT I TELL YA, NO RESPECT AT ALL!

  5. Chris said Aladdin is timeless, but even when it came out it felt too schticky and current, like Dreamworks movies, and it put me off Disney movies from then on. I’ll have to watch again on Bluray, but I’ve never liked the Robin Williams schtick too much.

  6. Good job sneaking some unrelated Jack Benny on the childrens. I can’t believe I’d never seen that clip with Benny and Groucho before – so goddamn funny. I almost did a spit take when he starts trying to wring more money out of the duck.

    (If the end of it gel, you have to know Jack Benny’s character is vain, smug, and above all, insanely cheap . Forcing him to admit his age for $3,000 – over $26,600 today – is the perfect gag for him. )

  7. Great article! I didn’t know half of these which makes it all the more impressive that I thought they were hilarious anyway. I especially thank you guys for introducing me to Carol Channing. I couldn’t stop laughing during that clip.

  8. This was a great article. I never knew about Senor Wences I would see references of “S’alright?” “S’alright.” everywhere and never knew what it came from.

  9. Great article Chris, thanks for taking the time to get this up. I knew a few but some being a simple Englishman I had no idea on most. The added vids also a great touch, overall I’d give a it an eight 😉

  10. I’m sure when the Genie makes the reference to “June”, he’s doing a Bob Hope (Mr. Slopenose) impersonation. Not sure about the reference to Harry

  11. “June” = June Lockhart who co-hosted Tournament of Roses parade 6 yrs consecutively I think, around 1969-1975.
    “Harry” = I believe this was Harry Reasoner, ABC correspondent at that time to whom she was communicating during the parade.

  12. Hey, I knew Groucho and Ed Sullivan and Peter Lorre, and I’m twenty! … But then again I grew up watching the Marx Bros. and people appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and I’ve even seen a couple Peter Lorre films (plus my dad used to imitate him all the time), so XD I didn’t get Jack Nicholson, though! Or any of the others. This has been really informative, thank you! 😀

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