Frank Caliendo stepped out of the small-stage spotlight, doing standup and impressions, and jumped into the small screen as a cast member on Fox's MADtv. Once America peeped his all-too-realistic John Madden impression, we got hooked on his comedy. TBS soon offered Caliendo his own program, Frank TV.
Though he's not a regular on television these days, he appeared as a guest on the Valerie Bertinelli and Betty White woman show Hot in Cleveland. His impressions have established him in the comedy world, but standup remains his passion, and after a stint in Vegas, Caliendo hit the road again. Before he heads to South Florida again for a few gigs, we chatted with the comic to learn about the man behind the voices.
New Times: You have cemented yourself as a
master of many facets of comedy. Did you start out trying to make it in
standup or perfecting your impressions?
Frank Caliendo: I started out going to Comedy Sports Class. They
taught improv and team workshops. Then, when I was still in college, I
would always try out impressions on my friends and goof around. Someone
said, "Hey, you should try standup." I went up and tried it, and doing my
impressions onstage just kind of worked.
How do you feel about the television comedy shift from your standard
sitcom to more awkward and improvised comedies like The Office?
There are always trends for what's hot on television. Reality TV opened
the door for people seeing an awkward pause more regularly. It's more
like real life. Sitcoms tend to be more cookie cutter, but there is a
place for both types to succeed. Traditional sitcoms are making a
comeback now. My kids watch Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel
constantly, and those family-friendly channels have more and more
sitcoms, and the bigger networks seem to be getting more awkward. Let me
tell you, that iCarly really hits it out of the park!
What comics have inspired you to follow in their footsteps?
Growing up, I loved Jonathan Winters' wit and the speed of Robin
Williams. Standup kings like Dana Carvey and Brian Regan always get my
attention. I like people that do something different, like Lewis Black,
Dave Attell. I always look for the comics who created their own style
and that other people want to be like.
When you aren't on stage bringing the laughter, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
I don't get a chance to listen to a ton of music, being mostly busy on the
road and having to listen to what my kids like. But when I do get the
chance, I like those retro, weird, '80s bands like Dexy's Midnight
Runners. None of that new poppy music; I stick to classic rock and, you
know, the weird, goofy, older stuff.
You have definitely been a figure on the small screen but not the
most famous guy in the world. What kind of response do you get from
people who recognize you on the street?
People expect me to be a lot taller. Also, I lost 35 or 40 pounds
recently, so I have been getting a lot of: "Man, you are skinnier than I
thought!" When I walk through an airport before a gig, people start
chattering to each other, but they can't tell if it's me because I am
just a normal guy, no entourage or anything. I was at the grocery store
the other day, and by the time I was done, four people asked me if I was
Do you enjoy South Florida when you come down to perform?
I always love coming down to Florida. I get the chance to see the
people I love that work down there at the Improv, and some of the great
South Florida radio guys like Paul Castronovo and Young Ron Brewer
really make it worth it. I'm heading down to do some shows at the Fort
Lauderdale Hollywood Improv, then as I am totally not a beach person, I
get to take my family to Disney and Universal Studios in Orlando. Next,
I come back to perform at the West Palm Beach Improv, so I have a
really nice trip to look forward to.
How do you handle being a part of the social media world?
Everyone follow me on Twitter! I always try to tweet back to anyone who reaches out. Twitter keeps me thinking. As soon as something pops in my head, I get to
tweet it, but if you do that in real life, you get into trouble.
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankCaliendo! See the comic from July 20 to 22 at Fort Lauderdale Improv, 5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood, and from July 27 to 29 at West Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach.
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