Tri-State Original: Mark Twain Impersonator - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Tri-State Original: Mark Twain Impersonator

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HANNIBAL, Mo. (WGEM) -- There may be all kinds of Mark Twain impersonators in Hannibal, but Jim Waddell's performance is truly one of a kind.

For more than 16 years, Waddell has given audiences a unique look at the life of the famous author by bringing a piece of history back to life.

To really understand Jim Waddell's story about how he became Mark Twain, you first need to go back to Branson, Missouri's Silver Dollar City in 1971.

"My first speaking character in that area was a professor called Ameritus Commedius. Silver Dollar City is a 19th century theme park and Professor Comedius was a traveling snake oil sales man," Waddell said.

For the next 16 years, Waddell performed 15 minute shows 8 times a day in Branson. But soon the Hannibal native started getting the urge to move back home.

"I spent a few decades away from home where I would see my family once a year and as you grow older you begin to re-prioritize," Waddell said.

Back in Hannibal, Waddell says it was divine intervention that made him first try on the Mark Twain wig. He was working for a local out door theater when rain canceled the night's performance. Waddell decided to take the stage.

"We already had the Mark Twain costume and I had been reading some of the material and I thought I could wing 15 minutes of it. That was the most embarrassing time of my life," Waddell said.

But it was also the start of his 16-year career impersonating Mark Twain.

"Every audience is different and there are nuances and you can gauge how an audience is reacting to what you're performing and you can alter it," Waddell said.

And while most people have read Mark Twain's books, Waddell has also read about the author and has made a career showing off just how much he knows about one of America's most famous authors.

Waddell performs his show Thursday through Sunday at the Mark Twain Cave during the summer months, then takes his show on the road performing for local school groups throughout the area.

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