Comedian-Impersonator Extraordinaire Frank Caliendo Talks About His Upcoming Show at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and Plenty More.
What should people expect come February 24th with your tour stop at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek?
Caliendo: Definitely a little bit of everything, a bunch of impressions that people have heard and stories as I tend to go topic from topic and voice to voice and bounce all over the place. I grew up watching Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters and people like Dana Carvey. I myself enjoy fast paced comedy so that is what I like to give my audience.
So you could say that you make it a point to have clean material, kind of family-friendly?
Caliendo: Yeah, it’s pretty clean and family-friendly, nothing dirty or vulgar.
Do you prefer live performances over news casting?
Caliendo: Well, I like a little bit of everything. To me it’s good to be able to do different things. The live feedback is always great, but coming up and creating something that is edited on television can be fulfilling as well. But, yeah live comedy is always a lot of fun
Is there anybody that is off limits to impersonate even though you are probably always asked by fans to imitate?
Caliendo: Off limits…I don’t think so, but for me there are only a certain people I am able to do. People generally think that when you can do an impression, it makes you a wizard therefore you’re able to conjure up any impression. It’s not like that, you have to work on them and sometimes you never get them. So it’s not so much they are off limits, but the skill and the ability to do certain voices or impressions aren’t always there.
From like the impersonations that you’ve done, as they do vary greatly, I know you’ve done from Presidents to sportscasters, which one would you consider your favorite?
Caliendo: As far as favorites go, it’s like choosing a favorite child, which I probably could…that would be my son right now, my daughter has been a little…I am kidding. Morgan Freeman people always seem to like, because people can’t believe it’s coming out of me. People also like my impression of Jon Gruden, which is great as long as the audience is laughing, then I like it too. Personally I enjoy the weird ones, for example when I do Robert Downey Jr. or Liam Neeson since they’re not as broad and more specific to the demographic. I always like those weird ones, which are always more fun for me, but not necessarily the audience so I don’t always do them in the shows.
So just curious to know, now that Gruden’s back in the NFL, does that mean that he’s going to take a beating with you impersonating him. I mean we all enjoyed that interview you did with him while impersonating him?
Caliendo: That’s actually pretty old, people thought it was new, but yeah it’s like two or three years old, which was before Derek Carr was even drafted. But, those guys are friends of mine. I have talked to Derek Carr and he told me I should come out and do something for the Raiders. I told him, “don’t you think one Gruden is enough” and he agreed yeah maybe you’re right. The one thing that will be different if I do the Gruden impersonation somewhere is that I could do it on a number of sports networks since he’s no longer affiliated with ESPN anymore. There’s a little freer range.
What’s the reception been like for the people you have impersonated and then maybe to talk to them afterward?
Caliendo: Well, at the beginning people don’t like it, because they’re afraid it is going to hurt their business. It really comes down to them worrying it will cost them money in the end, but like Charles Barkley had said to me, “Frank you have to keep doing these, because every time you do it I make more money.” Therefore, when doing an impersonation for someone like Barkley for example on Saturday Night Live, people come to realize that these folks are more famous than what they thought so it’s like free marketing. It really ends up working to their advantage, because it makes them even more famous.
I mean John Madden didn’t like me until I made his grandkids start laughing, then he joined in laughing and Jay Leno was a good sport. David Letterman always asked me to do his impersonation on his show so all these people most of the time end up liking it. I don’t do things in a mean spirited way, my stuff is pretty much just silly.
Which goes into that family-friendly atmosphere, but that’s not even something you really seek to do, it’s more of just your personality, right?
Caliendo: Yeah, I mean when saying family-friendly it sounds as if it’s for kids. I wouldn’t call it that, because children are not going to understand the references. There is a little bit of innuendo here and there, but I am probably PG at the dirtiest. It’s never vulgar, instead it’s close to a Pixar movie. I call it a clean show
Has any of your impersonations happened on a whim, maybe you’re at a party and then all the sudden you started mocking one of your celebrity friends and It became a staying act?
Caliendo: Well first I’d have to be a person that went to parties and not a person that is just home all the time, which is what I do. But, I couldn’t tell you any specifics, but yeah that has happened where I tried something and all of a sudden I say, “hey I can do this” and start throwing it out there and eventually I’m doing it on the stage or on the radio. But, definitely yes, some has happened on a whim and over time it develops. Sometimes you don’t get it the first day, maybe it’s like two years later and I start working on it, then suddenly it unlocks something and the flood gates open up and you start to figure it out. But until you get that, it’s really the cadence like with President Obama and his slow way of kind of speaking or Christopher Walken’s punctuation, etc. You find what it is that makes the person’s speech pattern interesting and do that.
I’m guessing you probably get a lot of those speech patterns with our latest president.
Caliendo: “Its tremendous it really is. It’s fantastic” (imitating President Trump). He is the only person that can describe a word with the same word, “it’s fantastically fantastic,” really I had no idea you could do that.
But it’s never one of those things like I think I heard something about Jim Carrey when he was first starting off, he would stare at a mirror to practice his material. Is there a spot where you do that or are you alone in a house and people walk in on you and you’re like “oh my God?”
Caliendo: No, that sounds more like an adolescent boy (laughing). I would say I used to work on that stuff a lot. I used to sit in front of the mirror when I was younger – around 18, 20, 25 – when I was trying to do an impression, but now I just try to figure it out anywhere. Usually it is in the car when I am by myself driving, I think that is when I work on it the most and develop the most impressions. Traveling all over the country, simply talking to myself between gigs, but now that I have kids I don’t have as much free time anymore.
Well hopefully you will have free time Super Bowl Sunday. Who are your picks, because I definitely know you are football-minded?
Caliendo: I feel like the Patriot will win, because they always do, but I really don’t know. I wouldn’t have picked any of the stuff to happen the way it did. I thought Minnesota was going to get there…actually I thought the Saints were going to beat Minnesota and when that didn’t happen I was extremely confused. Let’s just say the New England Eagles will win.
Is there anything you’d like to add for fans coming up with that February 24th South Florida show.
Caliendo: It will be fun, silly and fast paced. Some people think it is solely centered on sports, and I do hit on those sport characters, but it’s nothing specific to sports. It’s more about the people and the commercials, as well as observational things. This show is for everybody, not just sports fans. I may have a sports figure, but they’re short and I get back to somebody like Dr. Phil. It really is a good time for all.