Joe Wiegand poses for a Mark Glenn photo in character as former President Theodore Roosevelt.
WOOD RIVER — Joe Wiegand, a native of Elmhurst, Ill., and Theodore Roosevelt impressionist, will address guests at the Wood River Library at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12, with his presentation of the Teddy Roosevelt Show.
Wiegand will bring to life Roosevelt’s adventures with the Rough Riders, how he overcame a childhood illness and his time as the 26th president of the United States.
“I’ve grown up on stage,” Wiegand said. “My father was a comedian and he would follow the legendary Robin Williams when he performed in California on the Hollywood Strip because no other comedian wanted to. Robin would slay the audience and leave them exhausted. My father would step out in front of the crowd and read poetry to relax the crowd and let them recover before he began his own routine. I’ve been performing as Teddy Roosevelt since 2004 throughout the United States.”
Wiegand and Robin Williams shared more than just the love of performing on stage; they came to share the same character role. Before Williams’ death Aug. 11, he finished his third installment as Teddy Roosevelt in the “Night at the Museum” series — a series for which Wiegand is thankful.
“I have a great deal of gratitude for the influence movies like ‘Night at the Museum’ and ‘National Treasure’ have made,” Wiegand said. “It has brought history to light for a whole new generation. They see these movies as fun, exciting and adventurous. Roosevelt’s mannerisms were known as being over-the-top. With Robin’s ability to steal a scene, he could have easily stolen the show.”
Over the top is where Wiegand’s role of Roosevelt has taken him: from the movie set of “The Men Who Built America” for the Discovery Channel to the East Room of the White House as he performed for former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush on Theodore Roosevelt’s 150th birthday.
Wiegand’s show would prove to be the last public appearance for Bush before the election process hit full swing in 2008, bringing the Bush era to an end.
“The experience of traveling the country and performing for someone such as the president of the United States has been an extreme joy, a delight to meet people who do good deeds,” Wiegand said. “Roosevelt was popular on both the left and right of government. Roosevelt was a member of the fellowship of the doers. He had a sense of humor and probably one of the more popular Republicans.”
Wiegand’s wife, Jenny, and his daughter Sam have been supportive of his endeavors as they have traveled the country, but have helped him keep his feet firmly on the ground.
“My wife has reminded me from time to time that I’m not the real President Roosevelt and that I can take out the garbage,” Wiegand said, laughing. “I looked out into the audience from the Green Room of the White House, and it really was a green room; I saw that my wife sat just a couple seats behind President Bush. I could hear the first lady talking with someone about parts of my show, which forced me to make some quick mental edits as I don’t use a script.”
Wiegand has found many parts of his own life that mirror Roosevelt’s. Roosevelt struggled with asthma as a child and was told by his doctor to strengthen his lungs; Wiegand had a bronchial condition and also needed to build his strength. Roosevelt, a renowned conservationist, started the national park system.
“Roosevelt believed in living a life of action,” Wiegand said. “‘Get action, seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.’ That was one of Roosevelt’s famous quotes.”
The Joe Wiegand Teddy Roosevelt Show is free and open to the public. The event is co-sponsored by the Wood River Heritage Council. For information, contact the Wood River Public Library at (618) 254-4842.