Posted Sunday, May 27, 2018 by Rodney Hofirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Frank Caliendo made a name for himself doing impressions, most notably sports broadcasters like John Madden and Jon Gruden. The former "Mad TV" sketch comic worked for years on Fox Sports and ESPN. He headlined theaters like Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for years.
But he wanted to stretch himself. So he has been testing new non-impression-style material in small venues and is doing a Memorial Day show at the Punchline, which seats about 200. (The last time he was in town was in 2015 and he did the 2,500-seat Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. No surprise that the Punchline is sold out.)
"I'm working on a lot of new stuff and trying different things," said Caliendo, 44, in a phone interview last week. "People know me so much about the impressions, they don't know me at all outside of that. I'm talking more around the impressions, talking about some of the people I met."
He has a wife and two kids: a daughter age 9 and a son age 11. So he can play off that experience. For instance, he will muse about how his son is obsessed with this video game "Fortnight." "It's an appropriate name," he said. "I haven't seem him in a month or two. It's the most addictive video game I've ever seen! Kids are disappearing all over the world. I'm going to get my son hooked on heroin just so he gets out of his room!"
Of course, Caliendo admits that he can't snuff out his celebrity impersonations. "It's like Carrot Top losing his luggage," he said. "If Jeff Dunham shows up without Peanut and his puppets, it'd be a weird thing... I am not getting rid of the impressions. I'm just trying to make it part of what I do."
And some of his go-to celebrities have either died (Robin Williams) or been entangled in scandal (Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman.) "This," he said in Freeman's voice, "is not going to work for awhile." He plans to talk about it in terms of sexual harassment at large and hopes to see if he can find some humor in it.
Imitating sportscasters has been his bread and butter and what kept him employed with Fox and ESPN all those years. "They are analysts breaking things down so to use their voice to break down real-life situations, the comedy is quite easy," he said.
Caliendo said he has felt pigeonholed to a degree due to his impressions (see: Rich Little ) and is hoping he can eventually be cast in interesting acting roles the way, say Patton Oswalt has. "You get looked at a certain way," he said. "I rose up so quickly, I never really developed my point of view and told stories. I was doing impression after impression. It was magic trick after magic trick. It still works! I made a lot of money. Now it's time to do something else. I find people are enjoying it."
"I'm trying not use the impressions as a huge crutch," he added.
Caliendo is making himself the butt of the jokes because he said he's a naturally weird guy, the type of dude who never got the girl in high school.
"I'm trying to become more of me. It will take some time," he said. "I had been in a rut. I'm actually having more fun. And people like to see you fail. Some fans are telling me they like it more than my usual act."
He hopes he can eventually spin his new material into a theater tour or a Netflix special. He hasn't even done anything non sports since TBS's "Frank TV" a decade ago.
7 p.m. Memorial Day
$40 (sold out)
Punchline Comedy Club
3652 Roswell Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342