Quick, guess who said the following quote:
“My heart starts beating super fast pretty much as soon as we start blessing people. I just love it — blessing people, I just can’t get enough of it.”
If you guessed Joel Osteen — you’re almost right! It’s actually Michael Klimkowski, the Joel Osteen impersonator and comedian who recently snuck into a Joel Osteen event at The Forum in Los Angeles and raised total hell, if that’s how you want to describe an imposter saying “God bless you” to everyone they see.
A video that’s been making the online rounds this week shows how good Michael is at being Joel. Just like Osteen would do, Michael drives to the speaking event in his beat up 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe, scores free parking (“Do I get to park for free at my own thing?” he asks the parking attendant), and proceeds to wreak holy havoc. He takes selfies with attendees, asks people why there’s no beer at his event, and hands out heartfelt blessings by the dozen before getting thrown out by security.
Free Press Houston caught up with Michael in a phone interview on Thursday and asked him about what it’s like to be Joel Osteen, what happened at the event in Los Angeles, and if he’s actually ever met the big J-Dawg himself.
Free Press Houston: How’s it going?
Michael Klimkowski: I’m getting ready for a rehearsal for my comedy group. I do a lot of live character work. Joel is one character, but there’s a bunch of others. Like my “Bro Eulogist.” It’s just this guy imagining that heaven is the biggest bro down — think like watching MMA nonstop. One of his bros died hang-gliding in Cabo, so he gives the eulogy at his funeral.
FPH: How do you get into the mindset of being Joel Osteen?
Klimkowski: For Joel, because I look like him, it’s very easy for me to be confident. For other characters you have to change your physicality, but for Joel, the southern accent isn’t too difficult to do, and I just try to act very schmoozy, very pious. A slow, deliberate piousness. The blinking, too. Sometimes I’ll get dizzy from blinking too much. But yeah, no matter what I’m saying, I’m saying it while smiling, and I’m always looking for an opening to schmooze.
I just go on YouTube and check out videos of how he talks. I try with my impression not to bring too much of the “my curious wondrous child” stuff or the “my jewel of a daughter” stuff. I like to stick with my version of Joel. I’m not trying to do a commentary of what he does. Mostly it comes down to me having this freakin’ doppelganger so let’s see how far I can get with it and have some laughs along the way.
FPH: How did it go down at The Forum in LA?
Klimkowski: This one was definitely the most intense Joel thing I’ve done. I have videos online of me doing Joel as his alter ego — “Osteen’s Day Off” — where I’m doing a “Wolf of Wall Street” Joel, looking into what he’s doing with his millions. And there’s another one where it’s Joel behind closed doors, talking about the hurricane victims in Houston. But this one was pretty wild, it was crazy.
Right when we went got there it was like ‘OK, we’re here.’ It gave me no time to second guess what we were doing. So yeah, we go up and get free parking in my 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe, and I couldn’t believe it, honestly. You think Joel’s rolling up in a car like that with his buddy in an In-N-Out shirt? That was part of the beauty of it. All of the event people were super, super nice and immediately people were just like ‘It’s Joel.’
Our original premise was to do as many non-Joel like things as we could. You know, grab a beer, grab a burrito and just talk to people. But then it became about getting up to the front of the stage. We were thinking maybe I could do a sermon. It became a whole other thing.
Right when we got to the stage, I was ready for a sermon, getting my lines ready. But then we got caught.
FPH: What do you think you would have said in your sermon if you wouldn’t have gotten caught?
Klimkowski: When you’re in an improv moment like that you just have to with what’s on the top of your head. Something like “Damn, we need to get some more beer at my events, don’t you think? There’s no way Jesus wouldn’t have changed this water into craft beer. And these snacks! I tried to have a snack — these are sub-par. Let’s get some Houston hickory burgers in here.”
FPH: So what happened when you got caught?
Klimkowski: Right, so I was getting my lines ready and then we hear some serious-looking security guys. You can hear it on the video. “Imposter, imposter, it’s not him. It’s not Joel.”
I think it’s because I was closer to the stage, so the staff around there have to be more familiar with what Joel looks like than like the parking attendants outside, right? Probably. These guys, they were probably close to the green room, so it was like they had just seen him and knew I wasn’t him.
And I looked over at my buddies who were directing and was like “Lets rollll.” I told everyone “God bless you, no more pictures, no more pictures.”
You can see us walking pretty fast out of the arena to where the concessions are outside. The security was pretty tough, I was surprised. Told us to fucking sit down on the bench. I didn’t expect that from this type of event. And even then, people were still coming up to me, thinking I was Joel!
In all honesty, all the security actually made it look more official. Made me look more like Joel. In hindsight I wish we really would’ve doubled down and asked the security about why theres no beer here. Something like “I hired you! I’m your boss! I have a direct line with God and I will cancel your prayers tonight!
But in the moment we weren’t bad. A few cops came, but they were laughing at how uncanny my resemblance to Joel was. People got curious when the cops showed up, but I just told them that I’d see them inside in a few minutes, that I was just wrapping up some business.
We didn’t get a ticket or anything, the police just said never come back. And then actually we had a nice police escort around the traffic outside of the arena. A rarity in LA! It was a very regal feeling. Jesus may be king, but Joel reigned on that day.
FPH: When did you first realize you look like Joel Osteen?
Klimkowski: This started in high school, back in 2004 or 2005. A girl in my chemistry class was like ‘you know just like that preacher guy.’ I mean that happens to everyone — ‘you look just like so and so’ — but when I saw it I was like ‘whoa.’ Even some of his natural mannerisms — the blinking, the pious manner. How God loves me so much more everyone else. We’re cut from the same genetic block. That’s all natural. I’m a comedian, I would be remiss not to do Joel. Comedy in LA is so competitive — you have to carve out any niche.
FPH: Have you met Joel before?
Klimkowski: I have! A few days before The Forum, he was doing a book signing. So we went and filmed a video called “Joel meets Joel.” It was sort of my trial run. We had this planned since August when I did my reel for SNL. So we went to the signing posed with a bunch of people. I had some great one liners. Like about how I’m out playing beach volleyball all day, and about drinking smoothies here in LA.
Everybody thought I was Joel. I just started shaking hands, taking selfies, saying “God bless you” left and right. A few people would come up and try to open up about emotional turnarounds and whatnot, but at that point I’d have to say I’m not Joel and steer them away. I don’t want to dupe anyone like that.
Then I met him. It was cool, he was nice. But at the book signing, they just keep you going through the line. I was probably the like the hundredth person he saw that day so I don’t think he knew what was going on. I asked him if it was like looking into a time machine for him, like I’m a younger, more well fed person of yourself. Then he asked me what I thought of the book. He was nice enough.
FPH: Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to impersonate Joel?
Klimkowski: Just be born looking exactly like someone who is extremely rich. Play that angle up. But seriously, my real advice would be to get out of the way because the real Joel Osteen is here to stay. Me, I mean. But OK, real advice? Find your strength inside of you — you can do anything you set your heart to if you cut me a nice sizable check.