A dozen years ago, Tommy Davidson received a phone call from legendary tap dancer Gregory Hines, who told him that he needed to someday play Sammy Davis Jr.
That surprised Davidson, a comedian, actor and impressionist who first rose to fame as a cast member of the 1990s sketch comedy series “In Living Color.” Davidson wasn't exactly a biopic actor — his movie credits included “Ace Venture: When Nature Calls” and “Booty Call.” But he took the suggestion seriously. When a legend tells you you need to do something, Davidson said, you do it.
So he started researching Davis, the entertainer and member of the Rat Pack, who died in 1990.
“I knew he was talented,” Davidson said of Davis, “but I had no idea who he was.”
Hines died in 2003, but Davidson continued his research. He bought the rights to the 2008 book “Deconstructing Sammy,” and more than a decade after that out-of-the-blue call, he finally has a movie in the works.
“I'm working on it feverishly,” he said.
These days, Davidson, 49, is working on a lot of things. Earlier this year, he hosted the Showtime comedy special “Chocolate Sundaes,” a mix of standup and improv featuring new and established comedians. He's the voice of “Cream Corn” on the Adult Swim animated series “Black Dynamite,” and he's in the midst of a tour, which includes appearances at the Omaha Funny Bone Comedy Club this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“They're going to see all the good stuff,” Davidson said.
That stuff will include his extremely convincing Barack Obama impression, as well as impressions of everyday, ordinary people — say a Midwestern woman shopping at Walmart.
“I don't know how white women do it, but they can be rude and polite at the same time,” he said.
Davidson has been doing impressions since before he even realized what an impression was. When he was a kid, he said, he'd mimic his friends and classmates to taunt them. His mom would sometimes ask him to imitate the actors and singers he heard on the TV and radio.
“I've been natural with it for the longest time,” he said.
When he started doing standup in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1980s, impressions were a big part of the act. Among his best known: Prince, Michael Jackson, Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard.
When he comes across someone he wants to imitate, he simply listens to them over and over until something clicks.
“It's like a computer,” he said. “One day it just happens.”
Unless it doesn't. Impressions of Bobby McFerrin and Jamie Foxx didn't quite work, and he's been unsuccessful with impressions of fellow comedians.
Which Davidson thinks is too bad, as it would make for a great show.
“It would be a comedy special with just me doing all the comedy.”
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