Tuesday 23 October 2018

'Conor McGregor told me my impression of him was terrible!' - Irish impressionist Al Foran talks turning hobby into career

Comedian Al Foran.
Comedian Al Foran.
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

As Al Foran walked away from his job as a shop assistant in a Tommy Hilfiger store in 2015, he rolled a career dice laced with uncertainty.

While he had become a social media hit with his brilliant impressions of Irish UFC champion Conor McGregor, this engaging entertainer from Portmarnock admits he did not know whether his hobby could be converted into a full-time career.

“It started eight years ago. I created a few videos of celebrities and sports stars and stuck them on to YouTube and Facebook, which caught the eye of a few people,” begins Foran.

“Then after Conor McGregor won the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles, my online clips of him went viral on social media. Everything took off for me.

John Aldridge, Paul McGrath, Al Foran, Shay Given, Kevin Palmer
John Aldridge, Paul McGrath, Al Foran, Shay Given, Kevin Palmer

“However, I cringe at that first impression of McGregor now because I think it was bloody awful. Yet it was a launchpad for me and, since then, I’ve been on an incredible ride. The bookings are flowing in, I am doing shows with legends such as Paul McGrath and John Aldridge in massive theatres in Dublin and meeting my sports heroes, such as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs (below). It really has been amazing.”

Although McGregor has given his personal endorsement to Foran’s brilliant impressions, he admits the Dubliner was a little more impressed with his take-off of ex-boxer Mike Tyson.

“McGregor told me that my impression of him was terrible,” laughs Foran. “But he liked the Tyson and Robert De Niro ones.

“However, I have noticed that more and more people are asking me to do impressions of other people now. I was known as the Conor McGregor impersonator for a long time and, while that worked well for me in Ireland, the UK and America, I wanted to be more than that. I have a long list of sports starts, actors and politicians that I can run through now.”

Foran also reveals that he has been asked to appear on Britain’s Got Talent, but he suggests the need to take that short-cut route to the top is no longer an attractive option for him.

“You can establish yourself on social media now and it means that you don’t have to go down the traditional route of performing in clubs, or appearing on TV talent shows for a big break,” he adds.

“Britain’s Got Talent asked me to audition, but I said ‘no’. You can make it in this game by following your own dream. My belief is that we all have a shred of talent – maybe 20 per cent – inside us that would allow us to be performers.

“You need to develop the other 80 per-cent and, when you do, anything is possible. Conor McGregor is a prime example of that formula. He has worked his behind off to get the rewards and he is now enjoying sporting success. I am also striving to get better every day and to be more professional.

“Some of my pals have told me that I don’t have a proper job, but I have to work damn hard at this to get it right.

“As an impressionist, you need a constant stream of jokes – that takes a lot of time and effort to get right, as you are flicking from one sketch to the next.

“The success I am enjoying has given me the chance to work with some of the biggest stars in showbusiness and sport. Hopefully, that will inspire a few more people in Ireland to chase their dream.”

In an age when social media entertainment has become a highly lucrative new industry, Al Foran is among those reaping the rewards. Just like the icon he became famous for impersonating, this is a real Irish success story.

Follow Al Foran on Twitter @ImpressionistAL, on Instagram (alforancomedy) and Facebook @alforancomedy.

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