Frank Caliendo channels many voices

Andrew Gaug


Credit: Jason Hall

Comedians are busy people – especially Frank Caliendo.

From finishing with “MadTV” to doing his own show while traveling on tour, he can rarely stop to talk.

Luckily, the impressionist/comedian was able to be interviewed via e-mail to talk about his experiences in comedy.

Andrew Gaug: Before becoming a comedian, what did you want to be?

Frank Caliendo: I went to school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and thought I was going to get into broadcasting, doing like an ESPN kind of thing. I always loved sports and the comedy you could do while doing that job.

AG: When was it that you realized you wanted to become a comedian? Was there a certain album or concert you saw that just made you be like, “That’s what I want to do”?

FC: I guess after watching some early Robin Williams stuff – his first HBO special was great. I always loved “Saturday Night Live” and thought that would be something I’d aspire to do. “In Living Color” was also a great inspiration.

At one point, I just decided I didn’t want to work for real, and I jumped into the comedy world, and now I’m working a hundred times harder than I ever would have worked at a desk job.

AG: How was the experience trying to break into the comedy circuit?

FC: I got to move up pretty fast. Very few people do what I do with the impressions, and I have jokes to go with the voices and mannerisms of the people I do impressions of, so that allowed me to get noticed by people. I was an opening act for about six months and then I got on the college circuit by myself. Within two years I was nominated college comedian of the year. I didn’t win.

AG: How did you feel when you made it onto “MadTV”?

FC: “MadTV” was pretty cool, I guess. I never even had to audition for it, really. I’d met with them a couple years before and then went on to do a WB train-wreck show called “Hype.” But once “Hype” was canceled, they just put me on “MadTV.”

AG: Do you spend much time perfecting your impersonations before bringing them out onstage?

FC: Definitely. I don’t just try them out on stage – I work them for a while and see if I can get some friends, etc. to laugh. I’ll do them on radio for a while to get comfortable with them, too. It’s easier to do them that way because I can bounce them off of people and they can fill in the unfunny parts.

AG: Have you ever done an impersonation where you thought afterward “Wow, I’ll never do that again”?

FC: Not really. If it’s not that good I just make it cartoony. Like my Dick Cheney impression – it’s not spot-on. It’s more like a caricature.

AG: Outside of an audience, is there a certain person or friend you go to to make sure your impersonations sound good to other people?

FC: Not really anyone specific, everyone hears things differently. The audience is the only way to know if one is funny.

AG: I’ve noticed that your George W. Bush impersonation lampoons the president as a goofy person but doesn’t politicize it. Do you try and stray away from being overtly political?

FC: Definitely. I don’t like to offend. It’s about making people laugh and be happy. You don’t learn too much from me -ÿother than people’s behavior.

AG: How many people come up to you and refer to you as “The John Madden Guy”? Does it bother you?

FC: I guess some, (but) not as much as they used to. The Bush impression gets more people nowadays, I think. It’s more in the forefront.

Nah, it doesn’t bother me a bit. You have to find a niche in this business – I did. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind being “Screech.”

AG: You mentioned you’re very busy. Besides touring, what keeps you busy?

FC: My family. I’m always trying to be with them when I’m not on the road. I have a wife, Michele, from Lorain, who I met in Cleveland, and a 2-year-old son named Joey and 2-month old named Juliet.

TV also takes up time. I have to be involved in writing and shooting a bit for the NFL pregame every week. It takes up a lot of time.

AG: Can you give any details about your upcoming TV show?

FC: It’s a sketch show – my own sketch show doing the bits I’ve always wanted to do. (It’s similar) to “Mind of Mencia” or “Chappelle’s Show,” but with my slant on stuff. (It has) more impression/pop culture stuff than their shows.

AG: Are there any comedians out right now who have really impressed you?

FC: Brian Regan, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Dane Cook. I just like people who do their own thing, who go out there and have fun.

AG: If you sum up your entire experience as a comedian in one word, what would it be?

FC: Lucky.

Contact ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].

Frank Caliendo

Where? Redwood Hall, Ashland University

When? Friday, 7 p.m.

How much? $15


A few of the celebrities Frank Caliendo impersonates:

• Tom Brokaw

• George W. Bush

• Robert De Niro

• Jeff Goldblum

• Ted Koppel

• Jay Leno

• John Madden

• Norm McDonald

• Al Michaels

• Al Pacino

• Chris Rock

• William Shatner

• Donald Trump