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With Travis, Accent’s on Versatility

Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who covers comedy regularly for O.C. Live!

Comic impressionist Greg Travis has been spending a lot of time watching TV lately and, he says, there are a few TV personalities who drive him nuts.

Take Robin Leach, the irritatingly adenoidal host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”: “I’m Robin Leach showing you things you can’t afford. . . . Making you feel like the lowest of lows. . . . Look at this beautiful home; it’s something you’ll never have . . .”

And how about radio personality Casey Kasem?

“I can’t imagine him having a normal life,” says Travis, picturing Kasem “coming home after work and having sex with his wife: ‘Honey, I’m home. So take off your clothes and let’s make love. But before we do that . . .’ ”

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Travis, who’s headlining at the Brea Improv through Sunday, has accumulated a string of credits over the past decade that includes a guest spot on “Saturday Night Live” and appearances on “Evening at the Improv” and “Comic Strip Live.”

Described by one critic as a “master of ethnic and regional accents, from stuffy English chap to gnarly Southern California dude,” Travis is a versatile performer whose celebrity impressions range from the rebellious Jack Nicholson to the mannered James Mason as Moe of the Three Stooges (“Larry, Curly--I’m going to have to poke you both in the eye . . . ")

He’s also a highly physical performer, mimicking a kid he saw at the mall having a “major low blood sugar attack.” (“Mo-o-o-o-m,” he whines, with arms flailing, “I want some chocolate ice cream!”) Then he takes the bit a step further, imagining what it would be like if adults threw similar tantrums: “Boss, I want a raise, OK?”

Travis even manages to put a new spin on that staple of impressionists: the TV evangelist. Invoking the charismatic stage presence and distinctive vocal delivery of the Rev. Billy Graham, he becomes Dr. Rev. Lloyd, a man who just may sum up the veteran impressionist’s own comedy philosophy.

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“I don’t believe,” he intones as the preacher, “we’ve gathered here this evening to cut each other down with negative sarcasm. No sir! I believe we’ve gathered here tonight to rejoice in the joy of the joke, and to realize the power of the belly laugh. Praise Jesus, can I get a ha ha?”

Ha! Ha!

What: Greg Travis.

When: Thursday, Jan. 9, and Sunday, Jan. 12, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 10, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 11, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

Where: The Improv, 945 E. Birch St., Brea.

Whereabouts: Take the Lambert Road exit off the Orange (57) Freeway and go west. Turn left on State College Boulevard and right on Birch Street. The Improv is in the Brea Marketplace, across from the Brea Mall.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to Call: (714) 529-7878.

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