Starring as Himself

James Adomian does celebrity impressions, but the voice he’s proudest of is his own

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For years, James Adomian was anyone but himself onstage. The sketch comedian performed in costume, doing aggressive, sometimes obnoxious impersonations of people such as Vincent Price, George W. Bush and Jesse Ventura.

“I’ve been doing impressions since I could talk,” the 33-year-old says. “I used to do impressions of teachers and coaches and people in my life when I was a kid.”

But Adomian eventually realized he wanted to talk about his own life. “If you’re a sketch-

comedy performer doing characters, [nobody cares] if you’re [also] gay, which I am,” Adomian says. “It required me to do stand-up to talk about that. I can’t drop character and say, ‘By the way, the person saying this is gay.’ ”

So five years ago, Adomian turned to stand-up. At first, he was reluctant to mix impressions into his new act. “I never liked it when people just do voices to show off how they can do voices,” he says. “That’s never struck me as interesting comedy. I’m trying to have some larger point to what I’m doing.”

Adomian found the right balance of personal observations and vocal acrobatics — right enough to release his first album, “Low Hangin Fruit,” in 2012. His impressions are now integrated seamlessly into his act: talking about watching wrestling as a kid leads to a bit about Ventura; Sam Elliott comes out during a riff about beer ads; and he becomes Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps while discussing being gay.

“Low Hangin Fruit” was released via Earwolf, the podcasting network that is home to “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” which Adomian frequently guests on. On the podcast, he embraces his sketch roots, playing abrasive characters who interrupt host Scott Aukerman’s chats with comics and celebrities.

Though he’s favored stand-up of late, Adomian says he’ll take a break from touring after his shows in Arlington this weekend and might return to sketch comedy “in a big way.” One idea: an album featuring his many characters.

“It’s a wild circus of a life, and I don’t fight that anymore,” Adomian says. “I embrace it.”

Character Building

Here’s a guide to three of James Adomian’s characters and recommendations on where to hear them.

George W. Bush
Adomian’s big break came as a Bush impersonator. In “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” his 43 lights up with the titular stoners. He also was a frequent visitor to D.C., where he’d perform as Bush at political events.

Listen: “Bushsteps,” on “Low Hangin Fruit,” imagines a long goodbye from the ex-president.

Gordon Ramsay
Adomian appeared as the reality TV chef on a recent episode of “Comedy Bang! Bang!” — complete with a self-censoring bleep box installed in his throat. “I don’t like bullies and when I see them, I’m drawn to bullying them,” Adomian says.

Listen: “Comedy Bang! Bang!” Ep. 212, where “Ramsay” gives the podcast a makeover.

Jesse Ventura
Adomian plays the wrestler-turned-governor-turned-conspiracy theorist in a stage show, “Conspiracy Theory Live With Jesse Ventura.” “It’s one of the most fun things I get to do,” he says.

Listen: “Bang! Bang!” Ep. 80, in which “Ventura” and rapper/actor “Ice-T” (comic Paul F. Tompkins) discuss a trip to Mexico. R.G.

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse: 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington; Fri. & Sat., 10 p.m., $20; 703-486-2345.
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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