It's one thing to impersonate someone alive or dead - but a parody of a parody?
Gary Brown admits it's slightly odd.
He makes his living as Austin Powers, the only person in the world authorised to impersonate the spoof spy made popular by comedian Mike Myers.
The first Austin Powers movie was way back in 1997, and you might think that 15 years would see people having their fill of the character.
Not so; and particularly not with the fourth movie in the works. Each of the preceding films has extended the shelf life of Brown's day job - and a fourth instalment will give him only more material.
"He's a timeless character," Brown says. It began when Brown dressed up as Austin for a fancy-dress party and received rave reviews. He owned a mobile karaoke company, but was offered a job entertaining crowds at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He got the wig, the teeth, the suit made and flew over, performing for two weeks and was, by all accounts, a crowd-stopper.
He then took his alter-ego to that year's Wellington Sevens, and after making it to the big screen at the rugby grounds the organisers saw him and signed him to entertain at Rugby Sevens events around the world - Dubai, London, Hong Kong. He's been to Vegas, and, as Austin has never liked to party alone, built up an army of impersonators under the moniker Stage 51 - including Nelson's Paul Madsen - who appear at different shows: Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond, Annie Lennox, and more. He bought a V-dub, had costumes specially tailored, and slipped easily into his new role. "We have the same laugh, which is really embarrassing," he says. "He's the same age, we're the same build: Plump."
At one point, Brown was doing 130 shows a year.
Then came the movie studio lawyers.
"When you're impersonating a fictitious character there's a lot more copyright problems, because it's an invented idea," he says. He managed to convince the marketing Svengalis that he would keep them in the loop with the shows he was doing and that he wasn't going to sully the good name of Austin Powers by incorporating such filthy material as firearms or erotica - ironic, considering the spy's on-screen sexual excesses.
"They're very stringent," he says. "Nothing that would jeopardise their character, even though he's out there shagging anything that walks."
As such, Brown's show is "good family entertainment", with song, dance, and classic 1960s and 70s music. "It's good fun, a little bit naughty would be the word." Songs include Do You Love Me, Brown-Eyed Girl, and numbers from The Monkees. "Good stuff to dance to and sing along with."
Brown's wife, however, says no to Austin Powers. The character isn't allowed inside their house. "Hell no," Brown says. "Not even in the bedroom."
- Gary Brown as Austin Powers with Paul Madsen, The Playhouse, October 26, 8pm, tickets $20; and Nelson Suburban Club, October 27, 8pm, tickets $20 non-members, $15 members.
- © Fairfax NZ News