Quite the impression – find out how her effervescent brand of comedy offers pure escapism
BY Natalie Li
Escapism comes in many forms, from a feel-good film to a hilarious TikTok video, and these provided a welcome distraction from uncertainty and boredom during the pandemic. Then there were those determined to make us laugh during such a difficult time.
Bingley-born Steff Todd took the opportunity to bring her hilarious celebrity impressions to the masses during lockdown in 2020. Millions of views across social media platforms have resulted in viral success for the former retail assistant and radio presenter.
“I love Peter Kay and Lee Mack – I feel like they offer pure escapism and that is what my comedy is like, silly and daft. There is nothing serious in there and no real message behind it. I just want people to come to my show and have fun,” Steff enthuses in her soft and distinctive Yorkshire accent.
Comedy was never the dream growing up, but Steff admits a yearning to perform in some capacity. “I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she says. “I was drawn to performance and being on the stage, maybe dancing and singing. But it turns out I wasn’t good at either of those, but I just couldn’t work out what it was.”
Discovering a natural talent for impersonation was realised at a young age, adds Steff, who has supported comics Sara Pascoe and Dave Gorman on tour. “I used to come home from school and impersonate the teachers. I’d go on holiday and meet a family and I’d come back with an accent. I remember one of my first impressions was the character Alice Tinker from the Vicar of Dibley and I used to say, “Oh Vicar”, and my parents thought it was so good!
“I was obsessed with Joan Rivers’ humour growing up and I loved Absolutely Fabulous. I came from a funny family and my humour has been influenced by them – there was always good banter. You don’t realise at the time what you’re taking away. My family takes credit for my humour,” she chuckles.
Steff, who has performed at Bingley Arts Centre and attended tap dance classes in Shipley, grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, but left the rural setting for Leeds at the age of 18. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I started working in retail and living in Leeds. I felt like I was a student even though I wasn’t! It was all about going out, making friends – moving to a city was a big deal and it gave me comedy. I met some of the funniest people, it was a fun, non-stressful time.”
Steff finally plucked up the confidence to perform comedy gigs in Leeds and Manchester and attended a short course at The Arts Education Schools London and David Johnson School of Acting in Manchester. “I was working in radio with regular presenting shows on Pulse in West Yorkshire, Hallam FM, Lake Radio, Radio City, Rock FM and Key 103,” she explains. “I secured these paid slots after working for free. The hours were flexible on the stations, so I started doing stand-up gigs. I was secretive – you end up having not-so-great gigs and I knew a lot of people in Leeds. I remember performing in Edinburgh in 2017, but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I started putting funny jokes on Twitter and uploading videos of celebrity impressions. I didn’t know anyone in comedy, so I just went for it – I did a few gigs here and there before lockdown.”
As lockdown hit, Steff turned her focus to uploading online video celebrity impressions of Katie Price, Gemma Collins, Paloma Faith, Cheryl Tweedy, and she created the Yorkshire Kardashians – an hilarious spoof of the TV show, Keeping up With the Kardashians. Steff’s voice is dubbed over Kim, Kourtney, Kylie, Khloe, Kris and Kendall and features videos of them shopping in TK Maxx and Asda.
“I like the Kardashians and the way they support each other; they always argue but they’re loyal,” she says in support of the famous family. “To parody them I do need to watch a lot of footage. Nothing really happens on their show, and you know what is going to happen – it’s an easy-going watch.”
As to whether the Kardashians have seen clips of Steff’s spoofs is yet to be confirmed. “Khloe and Kris have a make-up artist called Ash who follows me on TikTok so who knows! I wonder if she’ll show them. I’d love to make them laugh, but I am not sure if they would relate to the Leeds references!”
Leeds plays a significant role in Steff’s comedy and it’s clear she remains loyal to her roots and hopes to remain living in the county. “I have a real soft spot for Leeds, but I also love York and I spent most of my childhood holidays in Whitby. I love the Dales and Skipton.”
Celebrities including Amanda Holden, Sharon Osbourne and Katie Price have approved of Steff’s impersonations – with the latter two sharing her clips on social media channels.
As celebrities fall in and out of favour, Steff admits it takes work to keep up with who’s who, but she currently enjoys doing impressions of Loose Women presenter Ruth Langsford.
With commentary on podcast Love Island: The Morning After, and an appearance on ITV’s Stand-up Sketch Show under her belt, Steff is carving a name for herself. As she prepares to take her ‘Guestlist’ tour on the road in October with seven dates in Manchester, London, Brighton, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Liverpool and a closing performance at the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds, Steff reveals she hasn’t released too much of her stand-up set on social media – “I don’t want to burn out my material” – but she promises a slew of impressions and plenty of gags.
“It’s a big deal doing your first tour: there’s no-one there to back you up,” she says. “When I first started, I thought I’d wing it, but you can’t. You need to know your material, you’re in charge of ensuring the audience have fun. I simply want people to forget about things and have the best night. There is something magical about performing – being in the same room, all on the same wavelength. If all goes well, there could be more dates in 2024.”