“Life’s a Sketch… And then you die.”
The phrase above is what you see as the title of comedian, impressionist and actor Frank Caliendo’s “funny” bio. Still, as you start to read it, you’re thinking you’re going to learn about what he’s all about, what makes him tick, his accomplishments in chronologic order, and then you read the first line … Born at the age of three in northern Illinois … and even though you may not be familiar with the comedian, he has drawn you right in.
That’s how Caliendo works, and on Saturday, April 2 he will work his comedic magic for us when he makes a stop at Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino to share what he calls his “silly take” on people and events.
With a career resume that includes stand-up, dead-on impressions of entertainers, Presidents and sports figures, as well as his work on television on MADtv and Fox NFL Sunday, his idea of success is two-fold; make people laugh while being a dedicated husband and father.
I had the pleasure to talk to the very down to earth and very funny guy recently and he told me about how he got started and how his “goal” switched with the births of his daughter and son.
Caliendo shared a couple of his impressions on the phone with me during our conversation and I have to say, I have never heard anyone do Donald Trump as dead-on as he does. I told him that and he told me how funny that was that I said that because a month or two ago he was emailing back and forth with comedian Dana Carvey and he said, “Dana gave me the greatest compliment of all time, for me at least … he told me he thought I do the best Trump of anybody.”
We went on to talk about what we can expect from his show and why he considers himself a weirdo when it comes to his career.
I think when it was all said and done, Caliendo summed it up best … “I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that do better, specific impressions than me … I’m just trying to make people laugh … and that’s all it really is.”
A CONVERSATION WITH FRANK CALIENDO
HULICK: This year is certainly going to give you plenty of comedic material with the Presidential candidates.
CALIENDO: Well the Trump stuff is pretty much constant (laughs) … whether it’s something he actually says or something people take out of context, they’re both equally as funny. It’s been a field day of stories. The bit I’ve been doing is … you can’t do him in a debate because he argues like a five-year-old. (laughs)
CALIENDO: I try not to take political sides to any of this because there are people that love him and people that hate him, and I try not to alienate the audience so much; I just want to make them laugh and forget about their problems. Like with Trump, if someone says, “Hey Donald … you can’t do that” and he says, (Frank goes into his Trump impression) “Oh yeah? Well you’re a doodie head … you’re the stupidest, stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!”
HULICK: (laughs) Oh my gosh!
CALIENDO: (laughs) It works so well. I saw something the other morning where Mitt Romney was talking about Donald putting his taxes out there and Mitt Romney didn’t put his taxes out there, and I love the way Trump just ends his point by saying … “Dope”. (laughs)
HULICK: (laughs) Yes, he does do that. With Trump you either love him or hate him like you said, there’s really no middle ground or in-between where he is concerned.
CALIENDO: It certainly seems that way. I don’t try to talk about the policies or get political about it. It’s the same way when I do George W. Bush or Clinton or Obama; I try to basically talk about them as a person or the character they are, the way they talk or something that’s silly about them based on something they’ve done. I’m not gonna talk about what he says about the Muslim faith or anything like that. If I’m gonna talk about Trump building a wall I’m gonna say something like, (speaking as Trump) “I’m gonna build a wall between these mashed potatoes and this gravy, and I’m gonna make the mashed potatoes pay for it.”
HULICK: (laughs) That’s really funny!
CALIENDO: I’d rather just go silly instead of political. People like Jon Stewart or Bill Maher do political and take sides, and that is what people watch them for, but I don’t enjoy that.
HULICK: Do you do any impressions of the other candidates?
CALIENDO: I can do Bernie Sanders. Remember the Tony Clifton character that Andy Kaufman would do? He’s a little bit like that. (Goes into his Bernie Sanders impression) … “I don’t know what it’s about, I’m gonna tell you right now! We’re gonna have Medicare for everyone … ba-da-pa-da, ba-da-pa-da …” (laughs). It’s almost like a Jackie Masonish kind of thing. As far as the other candidates, I don’t really work on people like that unless they win because the impression would have such a short shelf life … the material is only good for a month or two. I don’t really do political humor anyways. Donald Trump is different because he was a celebrity before this.
HULICK: What or who got you started in comedy?
CALIENDO: I went to school for broadcast journalism and graduated with a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and I thought … hey I wasn’t good at asking the questions, but I loved watching Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams and people like that answer questions on a Tonight Show, and that was what I wanted … to be on television and be a talk show guest. I got on stage once or twice before I graduated and it was terrible, but then I graduated and started trying it for real … I went on a comedy club stage and they asked if I could do 15 minutes and I said no, and they said well try to. So they hired me and basically I started working right away. It was crazy. Then I got onto a college circuit within a year and started making money to make a living on and I bought a Honda Accord and started driving around the country doing these college shows. Then from there, probably another year later, I got on TV and got a development deal for a show with Warner Bros., then came MADtv and then the NFL on Fox. It was always kind of little steps, so I’m kind of a weirdo.
HULICK: (laughs) What a thing to say.
CALIENDO: (laughs) Well the thing is, my whole life is … all I want to do is go watch my kids play, my daughter and son. I coach my son’s flag football team. I just want to be with them. My agent wants me to do this and that and I’m like why? You want me to go audition for a part in a movie that I probably won’t get that’s gonna shoot on the other side of the world for two months for the money I could make in one night doing my comedy show? You want me to leave my family for that? You’re crazy. I have no interest. My kids and my wife are more important to me. So, that’s why I say I’m a weirdo.
HULICK: That’s actually refreshing to hear, because there are many entertainers that look at it the opposite way of how long can I be away from home.
CALIENDO: Right. And they lie about it too, saying things like … I can’t wait to get back to my kids and my wife … after I shoot this movie for eight months. It’s like, where are your kids now? Oh, they’re with the nanny. What is that?
HULICK: What can we expect from your show? A little stand-up and impressions?
CALIENDO: Well my stuff always kind of intertwines with each other, so people don’t even know I’m telling jokes in between. I’m not going to say … OK now I’m going to do Donald Trump. I’ll just talk about him and that will lead into him arguing like a five year old. So I’m kind of acting the joke out. It’s a very clean show and the guy that opens for me is very clean as well. I do that on purpose so that anyone can come and see my show. I don’t swear … I’m probably cleaner than most prime time TV shows. So if you get offended, then you’re probably from the 1930’s or something.